The first 270 Oregon drivers registered Wednesday for the state's new pay-by-the-mile road usage charge program, OReGO.
Oregon is the first state in the nation to implement a pay-per-mile tax program.
“We feel great about our first day enrollment numbers,” Michelle Godfrey, public information officer with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), in an interview with TI News Daily. “We had 2,500 people initially show interest, so to get 10 percent on our first day is pretty exciting.”
Godfrey went on to say ODOT is involved in a recruiting campaign, and those numbers could change a lot over the next several weeks. “I’m excited to see where we stand at the end of July.”
OReGO participants will pay 1.5 cents per mile while driving in Oregon, and receive a credit on their bill for the 30 cents-per-gallon state gas tax paid at the pump. OReGO is currently limited to 5,000 vehicles statewide.
Godfrey said she’s not so much concerned with how many drivers sign up for the program, but instead wants a broad spectrum of drivers across the state. She said the program is limited to categories according to a car’s miles per gallon rating. “According to the legislation, we can only have 1,500 cars that are below 17 mpg, 1,500 between 17-22 mpg, and 2,000 above 22 mpg.”
The program was inspired by the popularity of fuel-efficient cars. While that is good news for the environment, program supporters say, it also means Oregon's fuel tax revenue keeps shrinking, leaving less available each year for highway maintenance and construction.
"The gas tax was a good proxy when it was invented but that’s no longer the case,” Godfrey said. “If we don’t do something as cars become more and more fuel efficient, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
To run the program, ODOT has partnered with three vendors, Azuga, Verizon Telematics and ODOT/Sanef, which will provide tracking devices to record the mileage. Volunteers will plug their chosen device into their vehicle’s on-board diagnostics port.
The device will then collect data on their speed, mileage, fuel usage and other emissions-related information. But to protect location privacy, only mileage data will be shared with ODOT.
Godfrey said there is no set end date for the OReGO program.
“We’ll keep going until the legislature tells us to stop,” she said. “We will be reporting to them regularly.”