• Apr 22, 2011
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN-DOT) is looking to recruit 500 residents of Wright and Hennepin counties to test technology that could eventually be used to collect a mileage-based user fee (MBUF) in lieu of the state's gasoline tax. Cory Johnson, MN-DOT project manager, claims that:
This research will provide important feedback from motorists about the effectiveness of using technology in a car or truck to gather mileage information. We are researching alternative financing methods today that could be used 10 or 20 years from now when the number of fuel efficient and hybrid cars increase and no longer produce enough revenue from a gas tax to build and repair roads.
Minnesota's roadway revenues are derived from three sources: gas tax, vehicle registration fees and motor vehicle sales tax, and all of these support construction and maintenance of the state's roads. Somewhere down the state's metaphorical road, if a significant number of plug-in hybrids arrive, then the state's gas tax revenues could drop off dramatically, leading to a shortfall in roadway funds. This is why MN-DOT (along with other states) is trying to figure out now if a mileage-based user fee will work in lieu of today's gas tax.

[Source: Minnesota Department of Transportation]
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Mn/DOT to test technology used for potential mileage-based user fee

Research is next step in determining new ways to meet Minnesota's necessary infrastructure needs


ST PAUL, Minn.-The Minnesota Department of Transportation today announced that it will recruit 500 people from Wright and Hennepin counties to take part in research to test technology that could someday be used to collect a mileage-based user fee. Mn/DOT will start recruiting volunteers for the Minnesota Road Fee Test in May and research will begin in July 2011.

"This research will provide important feedback from motorists about the effectiveness of using technology in a car or truck to gather mileage information," said Cory Johnson, project manager. "We are researching alternative financing methods today that could be used 10 or 20 years from now when the number of fuel efficient and hybrid cars increase and no longer produce enough revenue from a gas tax to build and repair roads."

In 2007 the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $5 million from the trunk highway fund for the demonstration. Mn/DOT has contracted with several companies to conduct the technology research. An adequate evaluation of MBUF technology must include a parallel policy evaluation, so Mn/DOT awarded a $395,000 contract to the University of Minnesota Humphrey School to conduct the policy study.

If a mileage-based user fee were implemented, motorists would pay a fee based on how many miles they drive, rather than on how much gas a vehicle uses, which is how Minnesota's gas tax is now designed.

The research will help Mn/DOT and public policy leaders understand the challenges and opportunities in such a system.

Mn/DOT is seeking volunteers from Wright and Hennepin counties because the population offers a mix of motorists who travel on rural and metro area roads. The volunteers will use a Smart Phone with a GPS application that also has been programmed to allow motorists to submit information, which Mn/DOT will use to evaluate whether the device provides timely, reliable travel data from that specific trip. In addition, the test will examine whether other applications, such as real-time traffic alerts that provide information on construction zones, crashes, congestion and road hazards, are effective in communicating safety messages to motorists. Three different groups of volunteers will test the devices for six months each. The volunteers will be paid a nominal stipend to cover the expenses of this test.

The technical research is designed to record miles and road use while strictly protecting the privacy of participants. The participants' names and home contact information, as well as the data that identifies their vehicle, financial account information, travel routes, and days and times of trips, are classified as not public by the Minnesota Department of Administration to ensure that the research and results are valid.

Mn/DOT has established a policy task force to examine implications of implementing a mileage-based user fee. The task force, to be chaired by former state representative Bernie Lieder, will hold meetings throughout the state and survey Minnesotans about concerns that should be addressed before such a fee could be implemented.

Other state DOTs also are researching alternative financing methods to supplement or replace a gas tax. The state of Oregon conducted a similar study completed in November 2007 and Iowa, Nevada and Texas are among several states currently researching mileage-based user fees.

Minnesota's highway revenues are derived from three sources: the gas tax, vehicle registration fee or tabs and the motor vehicle sales tax. These funding sources support construction and maintenance of a highway system. Based on its last state transportation plan, Mn/DOT anticipates as much as a $50 billion transportation funding shortfall during the next 20 years.
The research is scheduled to end by December 2012 and results will be made available to the public at www.mndot.gov.


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