Pay By The Mile: A Change In Minnesota's Gas Tax?

By KBJR Manager

Pay By The Mile: A Change In Minnesota's Gas Tax?

April 18, 2011 Updated Apr 18, 2011 at 3:18 PM CDT

The Minnesota Department of Transportation today announced that it will recruit 500 people from Wright and Hennepin counties to take part in research to test technology that could someday be used to collect a mileage-based user fee.

If a mileage-based user fee were implemented, motorists would pay a fee based on how many miles they drive, rather than on how much gas a vehicle uses, which is how Minnesota’s gas tax is now designed.

Mn/DOT is seeking volunteers from Wright and Hennepin counties because the population offers a mix of motorists who travel on rural and metro area roads. The volunteers will use a Smart Phone with a GPS application that also has been programmed to allow motorists to submit information, which Mn/DOT will use to evaluate whether the device provides timely, reliable travel data from that specific trip. In addition, the test will examine whether other applications, such as real-time traffic alerts that provide information on construction zones, crashes, congestion and road hazards, are effective in communicating safety messages to motorists. Three different groups of volunteers will test the devices for six months each. The volunteers will be paid a nominal stipend to cover the expenses of this test.

Mn/DOT has established a policy task force to examine implications of implementing a mileage-based user fee. The task force will hold meetings throughout the state and survey Minnesotans about concerns that should be addressed before such a fee could be implemented.

Minnesota’s highway revenues are derived from three sources: the gas tax, vehicle registration fee or tabs and the motor vehicle sales tax. These funding sources support construction and maintenance of a highway system. Based on its last state transportation plan, Mn/DOT anticipates as much as a $50 billion transportation funding shortfall during the next 20 years.

The research is scheduled to end by December 2012.