Oregon pilots GPS-based tolling system for four-wheelers

| 7/18/2005

Big Brother could soon be keeping an eye on four-wheelers in Oregon, but an official with the state’s DOT said trucks need not worry.

In response to a request from the state’s legislature, ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships has been developing concepts for other revenue mechanisms to make up for the state’s gasoline tax, which is generating less income because of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Under a new pilot program in the state, 280 volunteers’ cars will be fitted with special GPS devices. The devices will be preprogrammed with border and zone information within the state and will track the vehicles’ mileage, which will then be downloaded back to the DOT at specially equipped service centers.

“The one that we are testing in the pilot program is a GPS receiver – a very simple GPS receiver that does not send out a signal anywhere, and does not retain driving history,” said James Whitty of the Office of Innovative Partnerships. “It just simply receives the signal.”

However, Whitty said Oregon has no intentions of using the system for large trucks.

“We don’t intend to apply it to the big heavy trucks,” Whitty said. “We have the weight distance tax here in Oregon, so we think that matches up well with the mileage fee. There’s no need to have trucks have this system imposed on them.”

One last test of the system will take place this fall, before the official pilot program begins in Spring 2006. If it works and becomes the replacement to the gas tax, Whitty said, it would cost drivers approximately 1 cent per mile.

The program is backed by $2.9 million in funds, $2.1 million of which has come from the Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Pilot Project. Whitty said portions of this money will go toward recruiting and compensating the 280 program volunteers.

“These will be ordinary citizens,” he said. “They will have the advantage of not having to pay the gas tax during this time, and their mileage fee payments will be covered, so they will actually have an advantage to participate.”