Delaware To Begin Pilot Study on Mileage Tax - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware To Begin Pilot Study on Mileage Tax

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50 Delaware Drivers will participate in the pilot study (Source: WBOC) 50 Delaware Drivers will participate in the pilot study (Source: WBOC)
The change would tax drivers off of mileage, rather than usage of gas (Source: WBOC) The change would tax drivers off of mileage, rather than usage of gas (Source: WBOC)

DELAWARE - In the first state, the gas tax could soon be history, but drivers would still have to pay up. The US Department of Transportation announced that Delaware would be one of five states to test out a pilot program, where drivers are taxed on mileage, rather than the amount of gasoline they use. Using a federal grant of $1,490,000, Delaware and four other states will have 50 volunteer drivers participate in the study, to see if the plan is a viable option. 

Transportation leaders have eyed this proposal due to growing concern over the gas tax. Nationwide, the amount of revenue coming in from the gas tax has plummeted every year, due to more efficient cars, continuous inflation, and a limited desire to raise the tax rate. DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan said that a "Mileage Based User Fee" alternative could be a long-term fix to this problem. 

"Finding sustainable revenue to replace stagnant fuel tax receipts is clearly a sensitive topic with the public," she said in a statement. "That makes this project a fantastic opportunity to foster dialogue about how our transportation system is funded."

An application for the grant was filed earlier this year by the members of the I-95 Corridor Coalition's Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA), which includes Delaware leadership. According to the Delaware Department of Transportation, the goal of the program is to find an alternative that would bring long term solvency to the Highway Trust Fund. 

Local Reaction

On the streets of Delaware, opinion of this possible change were pretty mixed. Jim Cuty, who owns an SUV, said he liked the idea because while his truck uses a lot of gas, he doesn't drive too often, and so he thinks he pays more than his fair share. 

"Go for it," he said. "I'd love it. Save me a lot of money."

Meanwhile, Camile Weyant of Lewes was driving a Prius, and told WBOC she had the opposite opinion. Weyant said that she purchased that car because she wanted to pay less on her gas tax. 

"I would rather have the gas tax than a mileage tax," she said. "That's why I bought the car I did."

Beth Dowling of Lewes owns a pickup truck, and said that the change to a Mileage Tax would be more equitable. That's because she said whether you drive a truck or a smaller car, you do the same damage to the roadways. 

"It's not necessarily a larger vehicle," she said. "It's the people who are putting the miles on the roads. And if it's for road maintenance, that's something we want." 

Bob Speziale, from New York, said that he was concerned with the logistics of collecting this information. He said that there would likely be added costs for collection, and there could be privacy concerns as well. 

"You may be giving up some of your privacy," he said. "When you're being tracked like that. How else would you collect that tax." 

What It Would Look Like

While many details are still unclear, the Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance listed on their website five different technologies that might be used to collect the mileage data. 

ODOMETER: The simplest system would be to measure miles traveled by periodic odometers readings and to assess fees based on that data.

- GPS: GPS systems create the most concern about privacy but they also offer the most advanced data collecting capabilities for not just reporting the distance traveled but the type of road.

- ON BOARD UNITS: This technology would enable the electronic gathering of mileage measurements by simply plugging into on-board diagnostic ports.

- CELLULAR ON BOARD UNIT: Vehicles would use technology installed or as part of an on board unit to measure distance traveled as well as where traveled to compute miles and communicate data.

- SMARTPHONE: Smart phones offer a lower cost alternative to more expensive, installed equipment for miles measurement and communication. They combine the GPS tracking capability and the communication vehicle for transferring data to the central billing. 

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