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Caltrans Could Replace California's Gas Tax With a Pay-by-the-Mile Fee System

Anyone who has driven in Los Angeles in the past several years can attest to the shabby condition of the roads. With hundreds of miles of repairs on its to-do list, LA just can't afford the billions needed to bring the roadways up to speed. It used to be that cities in California could rely on the gas tax, a small fee tacked onto every gallon of fuel pumped in the state, to fill their road repair coffers. But now, with hybrid cars cutting down on total fuel consumption, the gas tax is underperforming, and Caltrans is looking for alternative sources of revenue. According to the LA Times, the state agency is now seeking volunteers to test the feasibility of "road charging," a fee system based on miles driven, as an alternative revenue source to the gas tax.

The California Road Charge Pilot Program is seeking 5,000 volunteers to participate in a study to determine the best method for tallying a driver's mileage, and whether road charging would actually be an effective alternative to the gas tax. Volunteers will participate in the study for nine months, starting in the summer, but will not be charged for their driving during the pilot program. Once Caltrans has the data, the California State Transportation Agency will issue a report to state legislators with their recommendations. It's then up to lawmakers to adopt any mileage-based fee statewide.

Increases in fuel efficiency over the past few decades have put a dent in the gas tax's profitability. That, combined with the fact that the tax hasn't changed in 20 years to keep up with inflation, has caused revenues to plummet. Today, the tax only brings in $2.3 billion out of the $8 billion needed each year for road repair and maintenance. Officials are hoping road charging will help close the gap.

It remains to be seen whether the public will warm to road charging, but Los Angeles in particular really could use the money for some much-needed street repairs. In 2014, TRIP, a national transportation research group, found that 65 percent of major roads in LA were in poor condition, with another 24 percent only earning a slightly better "mediocre" grade. The study also showed that the average Angeleno wastes $955 a year because of traffic due to LA's shoddy roads. So, no matter what, driving in LA is always going to come at a price.
· Caltrans seeks 5,000 volunteer motorists for mileage fee pilot program [LA TImes]
· The 15 Los Angeles Streets That Need the Most Repair Work [Curbed LA]
· Potholes Cost Each Los Angeles Driver $955 a Year [Curbed LA]