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Travel -- United States -- Data collection, Travel -- United States -- Statistics


This project considers the socio-economic impacts of the new highway user fee structure made possible by advanced technology. The fee structure also has implications for land use and healthy communities ( urban/rural, income distributional, and environmental impacts). The 2001 Oregon Legislature created the Road User Fee Task Force (RUFTF) to make recommendations regarding a potential replacement for the gasoline tax. A vehicle mile tax has subsequently been proposed as the replacement. Preliminary work has been devoted to exploring technical and institutional options for implementation of such a charge. OSU researchers have developed the technology and there is a pilot project in progress in the Portland area that tests charging vehicle mile road user fees using this technololgy. Media feedback on the proposed vehicle-mile tax has focused on 1) the possible (dis) incentives it could provide to the adoption of more fuel efficient vehicles 2) how the tax may unevenly impact drivers in urban versus rural Oregon, and 3) whether the change in tax structure will have an adverse impact on low income groups. The purpose of this study is to develop a model which provides an analytical framework from which to quantify the impact of changing to the proposed vehicle-mile tax. ODOT will use the results from this study to help formulate the specific form of the vehicle-mile tax (flat tax, a graduated tax, a higher tax for less fuel efficient vehicles, a differential tax for urban/rural areas, etc.). Perhaps just as important is the fact that ODOT needs some quantitative information on the socio-economic impact of such a tax, to use in public relations. A huge factor in determining the ultimate adoption of such a tax structure will be the public acceptance of this change and, in turn, they need to have full information on what it will do. Given the decreasing ability of the gasoline tax to cover the costs of the highway system, an alternative financing scheme is necessary to insure future mobility. There are also implications for environmental stewardship as a vehicle-mile tax has also been suggested as an emissions tax. Finally, once the technology is in place for a vehicle-mile tax, it becomes possible to implement a vehicle-mile tax that may vary by time of day and location, providing an efficient congestion pricing tool. The FHWA has five focus areas for policy research as listed in USDOT, Research, Development, and Technology Plan, 6th edition, FY 2005. One is developing analytical tools to evaluate the impacts of a broad range of highway policy options (p. 4-12). Under Future Direction in Highway Finance: to examine the long-term viability of existing highway financing mechanisms and explore issues relating to alternatives, including the future role of the private sector in providing and managing transportation resources. And under Legislative Analysis and Strategic Planning: Support the development, analysis, and implementation of transportation legislation and address strategic initiatives that are likely to influence future legislative and political directions. Thus, this project is consistent with national and state transportation strategies and priorities.


This is a final report, OTREC-RR-08-01, from the NITC program of TREC at Portland State University, and can be found online: at:



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