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Oregon's pay-by-mile system coming to Washington soon

States like Oregon and Washington have relied on the gas tax to pay for state road projects for decades.
Oregon’s pay-by-mile system coming to Washington soon. (Photo: KING)

Some see it as another tax or an invasion of privacy.

But Evan Burroughs feels like he’s living in a video game.

“Oh it’s a lot of fun,” said Burroughs, one of 800 volunteers who pay the state of Oregon 1.5 cents for every mile they drive.

He's also able to track his speed, how often he uses his brakes, and how long he idles, thanks to a device plugged into his car's computer system.

“If we want a good, safe road system,” said Burroughs. “It’s going to cost a little bit of money.”

States like Oregon and Washington have relied on the gas tax to pay for state road projects for decades.

But as cars become more efficient, transportation departments and lawmakers in both states say they have to look at alternative ways to raise money.

In the summer of 2015, Oregon launched the “OReGo” program. The volunteers are charged by-the-mile, and receive rebates for whatever they spend on gas, based on their car’s mileage.

“You pay one or the other. It’s not a double taxation situation,” said Oregon Department of Transportation’s Michelle Godfrey.

She said Oregon is the first and only state to collect mileage fees from drivers.

Lawmakers gave ODOT the authority to launch the program to see if works as a revenue generator and if drivers would be willing to participate.

“We’ve proven we can actually collect revenue. We’ve proven the technology works, and we’re demonstrating that volunteers like it,” said Godfrey.

She said the fear of being over-taxed and privacy concerns have made some skeptical of volunteering.

But she said the state does not track where drivers are going, only the mileage traveled.

While one option does provide GPS-mapping information on volunteers, there is a mileage-only way of documenting miles, said Godfrey.

The state of Washington will start testing a similar program in January.

Interested volunteers can sign up now.