VMT Fee Recommended to Replace Gas Tax

A national panel of transportation experts is urging Congress to “adopt legislation laying out a clear plan for transitioning, over the next decade, from the per-gallon fuel tax to a highway-use fee based on vehicle-miles traveled (VMT).” This was one of the main conclusions of a report issued by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia based on the findings of an October 2009 National Transportation Policy Conference.

The conference drew on the expertise of three former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation and the findings from previous studies of transportation policy and funding conducted by the Brookings Institution, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and two congressionally appointed transportation study commissions.

According to the Miller Center report, adopting a funding approach based on VMT would restore the original intent of the Highway Trust Fund: that users fund the transportation system in proportion to their use of it. Many policy analysts view the VMT fee as a clear first choice compared to other new highway funding mechanisms that have been proposed or considered.

Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), says, “Toll operators around the world agree that tolling represents the most direct form of user fee payment. Advances in non-stop open road tolling have made it possible to eliminate toll plazas and the lines of traffic many people are accustomed to. High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes are increasing the efficient use of underused HOV lanes. Non-stop tolling and congestion charging use technologies and systems that are in wide use today and point the way to the user-based VMT fees called for by the Miller Center report.”

The IBTTA supports the conclusion that “future funding mechanisms should not depend primarily on fossil-fuel consumption—which the government is actively seeking to discourage through a number of other policies—to keep up with transportation investment needs.”

The IBTTA report, “A Forum on the Future of Highway Transportation in America,” which also urges movement to a mileage-based user fee, may be found here.

The Bipartisan Policy Center report may be found here.

The report of the congressionally authorized National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission may be found here.

The report of the congressionally authorized National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission may be found here.

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