Caltrans launches pilot program to study state mileage tax for road maintenance

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Caltrans pilot program is underway to study a mileage tax for California drivers instead of the current gas tax to pay for road maintenance.

The gas tax drivers pay at the pump has been working well for decades. The problem going forward is that it's producing less and less revenue as more and more people drive electric or fuel-efficient cars.

Under the current gas tax drivers who use more gas pay more tax.

"Some people are going to be paying a lot more gas taxes than other people to drive and there's a fundamental unfairness to that at some level," said Asha Agrawal of the Mineta Transportation Institute.

With a mileage tax, everyone pays per mile they drive. But why should fuel-efficient drivers be punished?

"If somebody is driving an electric vehicle, they're doing the right thing for the environment, we should give them a little break," Agrawal said. "I think the real question is, if we're moving forward to a miles tax, how do we pick the right one?"

Five thousand California drivers are taking part in the Caltrans pilot program, testing the merits of a mileage tax instead of the gas tax, including how the mileage data would be collected.

"At the absolute simplest, we could check once a year people's odometers and send them a bill. At the other end, we could have the equivalent of a GPS device in every vehicle," Agrawal said.

The revenue is needed to pay for road maintenance and repair. Drivers of both gas and electric cars have mixed feelings.

"We're polluting less and we'd be taxed the same, just doesn't sound like the ideal situation," said Palo Alto resident Federico Gomez.

"I would think with less people using gas it would make sense, so I'd probably be In favor of it," said Menlo Park resident Sean Carney.

No money is actually exchanging hands during the pilot program.
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