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Jan03

WA Transportation Commission adopts recommendations on road usage charging

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Commission recommends a gradual approach to adoption; recommendations move on to the legislature

On Tuesday, December 17, the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) adopted their final recommendations on road usage charging, taking into consideration public input, extensive research, statewide public engagement and detailed analysis of the participant feedback and system performance of the 12-month Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project

The WSTC’s adopted recommendations will be transmitted to the Washington State Legislature, Governor Jay Inslee and the Federal Highway Administration in January 2020.

The adopted recommendations in large part came from the list of preliminary recommendations shared with you in October in which the WSTC sought your input. Over 2,000 people provided comments and all of those were shared with the WSTC in advance of their December 17 meeting for their review and consideration. Comments responding to the question posed generally aligned with concerns and questions that have been expressed throughout the pilot project including transitioning to a road usage charge (RUC), privacy concerns, equity and fairness, compliance and administration costs and vehicles subject to a RUC.

At the core of the adopted recommendations, the Legislature is encouraged to begin a slow and gradual transition away from the gas tax, starting with requiring vehicles in the state-owned vehicle fleet to pay a road usage charge in lieu of the gas tax. The commission also recommends applying a road usage charge to electric vehicle owners who pay no gas tax and hybrid vehicle owners who pay little gas tax. The commission also recommended that a full transition to a road usage charge of all vehicles in the state should not occur for at least 10 years, and likely several decades.
 

Summary of WSTC WA RUC recommendations

Transitioning to a RUC
  • Take a slow and gradual approach to introducing RUC in Washington, including a start-up phase to help inform a transition plan before there is broad, fleetwide adoption in the future. 
  • A start-up phase should include vehicles that pay little or no gas tax: plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, which currently pay flat annual fees regardless of miles driven. This will allow the state to continue to develop and test a RUC for at least five years before considering fleetwide implementation.
  • Include state-owned vehicles in the start-up phase to test:
    • New approaches to privacy protection
    • RUC compliance and enforcement
    • Travel between states
    • Opportunities to reduce operational costs
    • Improving the driver experience in transition away from the gas tax

Key state policies and considerations needed for a RUC system
  • Implement privacy protection measures in state law specific to a RUC system.
  • Restrict RUC revenues to highway-related expenditures by making RUC subject to the 18th Amendment of the Washington Constitution.
  • Current programs that receive gas tax refunds for non-highway activities should continue receiving their same share of funding during the transitional period to RUC.

Continue researching key topics over the next couple of years
  • Assess potential equity impacts of RUC on communities of color, low-income households, rural communities, vulnerable populations, and displaced communities. 
  • Continue assessing RUC on a broader scale, including testing new mileage reporting options, assessing different approaches to RUC rate-setting and how to maximize compliance.
  • In collaboration with other states, conduct additional research on different approaches to reducing administrative and operational costs of RUC, assess how RUC would be applied efficiently to cross-border travel and assess compliance gaps and potential enforcement measures.

Information on Washington’s Road Usage Charge Assessment & Pilot

Do you or somebody you know want to learn more about RUC? Visit our project website for a list of resources on RUC, including: