Utah panel discusses road-use charge

September 29, 2020

Keith Goble

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Pursuit continues at the Utah statehouse to address road funding mechanisms. The Legislature’s Transportation Interim Committee met recently to discuss topics that included the status of the state’s road-use charge program.

The Utah Department of Transportation provided the committee with an update on the program available to certain alternative-fuel vehicle owners.

State officials previously decided to pursue alternatives to fuel tax collection as a source for additional transportation funding.

They cite more fuel-efficient vehicles and changing driving habits through the years for declines in fuel tax revenues needed to cover funding costs.

Early this year, the state DOT began a road-use charge program available to interested electric and hybrid vehicle owners. The program gives about 2,000 enrolled vehicle owners the option to pay a $120 flat fee or a 1.5-cent-per-mile fee.

Advocates describe the road-use charge program as the future of transportation funding in the state. They cite anticipated growth in people purchasing alternative fuel vehicles, which will cut further into revenue collected via the state’s fuel tax.

Bonds

Another method being considered by the panel to cover costs for transportation work is borrowing.

Specifically, legislators are looking at the possibility of borrowing $500 million for transportation projects that could include widening northbound Interstate 15 in southern Salt Lake County.

Advocates say now is the time to tap bonds to cover costs because interest rates are low. Additionally, they say borrowing would allow the state to get started and finish projects sooner.

Tolls

An alternative that is not getting consideration is collecting tolls on road users.

A 2018 Utah law allows the state to place tolls on any roadway. Previously, the option was limited to new roads.

The two-year-old law puts the Utah DOT in charge of deciding which roadways could be tolled.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, who chairs the committee, said officials do not expect to pursue the tolling option due to a lack of support from the public. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Utah is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.