SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Caltrans in mid-March announced it has received a $2.15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to study impacts of a potential road user charge program in rural communities. The grant builds on Caltrans’ ongoing research for possible alternatives to the state gas tax to fund road and highway maintenance. In a road charge system, drivers could be charged for the miles they travel rather than the gasoline they use.
“As the state looks toward a zero-emission future, California needs to study alternatives to the gas tax to fund our transportation infrastructure,” said Toks Omishakin, director of Caltrans. “It is critical that we fully understand how a road charge program may uniquely impact rural communities and work together to find solutions.”
With the grant, Caltrans will study the viability of GPS technology in differentiating between public and private roads. The project will also identify priorities and analyze potential benefits of a statewide road-charge program in rural and tribal communities. Caltrans will use volunteers for the study, which is expected to be completed in 2023.
Caltrans received the grant as part of the USDOT Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives Program, which supports projects that test alternative tools — such as road use charges — to fund transportation maintenance. This program was established in conjunction with the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) of 2015, which was designed to provide long-term funding for surface transportation nationwide.
This project will be Caltrans’ third road charge study. The initial California Road Charge Pilot launched in 2016 and ran for nine months. During that time, more than 5,000 vehicles from all over the state reported more than 37 million miles driven, using both manual methods and technical methods with optional location‐based services.
Caltrans launched a second project in January 2021 to determine a user-friendly method for gathering data. Based on recommendations from the original pilot report, this project simulates a road charge using four technologies — pay at the pump/charge point, usage-based insurance, ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles.
California is also partnering with Oregon, which has a voluntary road charge program, on a pilot project to explore issues related to interoperability between states and to help develop a potential regional system.
For more information about the California Road Charge program, click here.
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