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Drivers sought to plot road charges

State officials considering tax based on driving distances, time

Posted: February 16, 2016 7:15 p.m.
Updated: February 16, 2016 7:15 p.m.

California officials are seeking 5,000 volunteers to help chart a potential new course for state roadway funding: taxing drivers for how long they spend on the road, not how many gallons of gas they burn.

The California Road Charge Pilot Program is meant to provide information on whether it would make sense to replace the existing gas tax with a “road charge system” — in which drivers would be taxed based on the distance they travel or the period of time they use the roads.

The California Legislature created the pilot program in 2014, saying it was necessary to examine new ways to fund much-needed roadway repairs and improvements statewide.

“The reason an alternative to the gas tax is even being looked at is because, over time, with the combination of the increased fuel efficiency of vehicles as well as a growing number of non-gasoline-powered cars, it’s questionable whether the gas tax will be a viable long-term funding source for our roads,” said Steve Finnegan, government affairs manager for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

State officials say the shortfall between roadway needs and available funding is already in the billions of dollars annually.

“The revenues currently available for highways and local roads are inadequate to preserve and maintain existing infrastructure and to provide funds for improvements that would reduce congestion and improve service,” reads a state website set up to host information on the road charge pilot program.

“The gas tax is an ineffective way for meeting California’s long-term revenue needs because it will steadily generate less revenue as cars become more fuel efficient and alternative sources of fuel are identified.”

A nine-month pilot program to test out the concept of a road charge system will launch in July.

Data collected during that window will help address a number of lingering questions about a road charge system — such as how mileage will be recorded and whether such a system makes sense in California.

There is no cost to participate in the pilot, and drivers participating will not be charged for the miles they drive.

Among those who have signed up to participate in the pilot program is Victor Lindenheim — executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition.

Lindenheim said Tuesday it’s a good thing the state is taking a look at gas tax alternatives.

“They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, which is at least looking at options,” he said, “because the current system is unsustainable.”

Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Marsha McLean, who is regularly involved in transportation-related issues, said she has “some very deep concerns about this program.”

“To me, this is just another tax on residents and hardworking people who need to drive long distances because there is no alternate transportation,” McLean said Tuesday.

McLean said she wished the state would do more to fund different forms of transportation, making it easier for residents and commuters to leave the car in the garage.

“It would be far better if Sacramento would come up with a way to fund transportation rather than trying to figure out another way to tax people,” she said.

For more information on the program, or to volunteer, visit

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