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County road commissions support road use tax as future funding option

US-131 and rail yard
Sara J. Martin
Michigan Department of Transportation
US-131 and rail yard

Lawmakers are considering how to pay for Michigan roads, bridges and infrastructure into the future. One option is replacing the gas tax with a tax-per-mile

A recent study from the County Road Association of Michigan shows:

“We need $2.4 billion more per year to maintain what we have.”

Denise Donohue is the CEO of the association and says funding through the gas tax isn’t working.

“Our gas tax in Michigan peaked in 2001 and it’s been slowly declining ever since because of this thing with our vehicles being more efficient that we just haven’t talked about.”

Part of that talk now is electric vehicles and hybrids which use little to no gas.

“The folks who are buying new vehicles - more efficient, whether gas or electric - are paying less and less toward the upkeep of the roads and the burden is falling increasingly on folks with older cars, less fuel-efficient cars.”

The association supports considering a mileage-based use fee or road usage charge: drivers would pay a few cents for each mile driven rather than pay a tax on how much gas they buy. People could pay a flat premium fee, report mileage to the Secretary of State, or track it through a phone app.

”It could be telematics in your car so let’s think of OnStar for example, something you’re already subscribing to that could track your mileage.”

How to credit Michigan drivers traveling out-of-state, and how to charge non-residents using Michigan roads are just a few challenges to be addressed. Donohue says it would likely be a decade before any such changes could be implemented.

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