Utah will charge some vehicles for every mile driven on the roads

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's Department of Transportation will launch a program next year that will charge drivers for every mile they use the roads.

At a meeting of the Utah State Legislature's interim Transportation Committee, lawmakers were briefed on the program being launched in October, with driver signups beginning in January.

"Utah could be the first state that actually does this!" said Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville.

UDOT is implementing a road use charge to address declining gas tax revenues, which pay for road construction and repairs.

"The gas tax is being eroded by cars that are getting good mileage that are electric and they aren’t actually paying tax," UDOT Deputy Director Teri Newell told FOX 13.

The proposal would be to charge $0.015 per mile to electric and hybrid vehicles, based on a GPS measurement of how far they are driven. For example, 10,000 miles would be about $150. Or, drivers could sign up to pay a flat fee that would be equivalent to (and could be in lieu of) vehicle registration with the state.

Other states are considering similar programs, but only Utah and Oregon are moving beyond a pilot project. The state is already contracting with a third-party to handle GPS tracking to avoid privacy concerns.

Newell insisted the program was not designed to penalize people for purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles. UDOT is aiming for the program to be revenue neutral.

"We’re trying to make it the most fair possible and make it a fee based on how much you use the system," she said.

Right now, UDOT is seeking volunteers for a January 2020 signup. Lawmakers asked about it making money, and how it would impact vehicles from out of state and local roads.

"What is your plan, or when do you anticipate making it mandatory at this point?" asked Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake.

"As we start to learn more with the program there are other things we might consider," Newell told the committee.

Rep. Adam Robertson, R-Provo, asked about expanding it to gasoline-powered vehicles. The legislature would ultimately decide when to fully adopt a per-mile charge for every vehicle.

"I think it has some great potential," he said, praising the program. "It has some great implications for funding transportation in the state in general. I like the principle of taxes that are use-based."

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