A new pilot project is underway in Washington State to replace its gas tax with a new tax, and officials are looking to Surrey residents to get involved.
The Washington State Transportation Commission will look at a pay-per-usage model where drivers would pay a tax based on miles driven, compared to the current system where drivers are taxed 49 cents per gallon at the pump.
Washington is forecasting the need for a new model in the next five to ten years, said Reema Griffith, the commission’s executive director, as cars become more fuel-efficient and drivers turn to electric models.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when the gas tax becomes obselete,” Griffith said.
The tax is used as a main source of funding for its infrastructure, she said, but the state has noticed a dip in revenue because of advances in fuel efficiency.
“This would be contemplating a major paradigm shift in how we look at infrastructure funding,” Griffith said. “We have been studying road-usage charging since 2012 and are careful about advancing it – it’s a big thing.”
The year-long pilot project is set to begin this fall. The commission is looking for 2000 drivers across the state and 200 drivers across the border in Surrey, who would use an app on their phones to track mileage and its hypothetical cost, then provide feedback.
The idea is to better understand how this model could work with international border traffic, Griffith said, and how the two countries would coordinate the fees.
Local politicians in the Lower Mainland have long considered mobility pricing as a way to pay for a laundry list of transit and transportation improvements, especially with bridge tolls now in the rear view mirror.
The mayors’ council on regional transportation launched a commission on the topic in June to explore options for road usage charges, how pricing could reduce traffic congestion and which roads to toll.
Although tolled roads already exist in Washington, Griffith said she’s aware of the conversations happening in B.C. and will keep an eye on what develops.