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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022
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San Diego Drivers Will Test Pay-By-The-Mile Road Funding

San Diego is about to become part of a cutting-edge national study that could result in a whole new way to raise revenue to pay for the country’s aging roadways.

Funded through the national highway bill of 2005, the $16.5 million study will test the feasibility of replacing the time-honored gas tax with fees based on actual road use.

As a way to measure miles driven, participants would agree to have computers installed in their vehicles.

Conducted by the University of Iowa, and expected to begin in the spring, the study also will include Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Boise, Idaho; parts of North Carolina and eastern Iowa.

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The sample group will include 250 people in San Diego. Participants will be paid.

The study raises two questions, according to David Forkenbrock, a professor at the university’s Public Policy Center who is spearheading the testing: Will the results justify abandoning the use of gas taxes to generate revenue? And, he said, “Will it play in Peoria?”

The fuel tax , in place for more than a half century , is now generating about $80 billion a year, said Forkenbrock. The concept of a user fee would be a major departure, essentially turning the road system into a public utility, “not unlike having gas, water and electrical meters on your house,” Forkenbrock explained. In other words, the more a person drove, the more they would pay.

To be fair, the system could be adjusted to account for the size of a vehicle. Another adjustment would allocate money to all the jurisdictions the vehicle travels through.

But will drivers end up sacrificing their privacy?

“The number one design feature I have insisted on is privacy protection,” said Forkenbrock. “There is no way anybody will have a record of where or when you travel.”

He expects to present the results of the study to Congress, and the secretaries of the treasury and transportation, in July 2009. If the results are green-lighted, Forkenbrock figures that it will take about eight to 10 years before the newly outfitted cars roll off the assembly line.

, Pat Broderick

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