Remember Transportation Secretary LaHood’s recent remarks about government tracking of mileage and taxing it as an option for raising revenue for roads?  The press secretary said “It is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration.”  Case closed, right?

Wrong.  The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission released a report on February 26 that recommended that very thing:

The current reliance on gasoline taxes is unsustainable, in part because of more efficient cars and alternative fuels, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission said in a report. Spending per mile traveled has dropped almost 50 percent, adjusted for inflation, since the Highway Trust Fund was created in the late 1950s, the panel said.

The so-called vehicle-miles traveled framework, which may require a device in cars to track mileage, could assess higher fees at rush hour or on heavier vehicles, the panel said. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said last week that such a system “will not be the policy of the Obama administration.”

“The White House was somewhat premature,” commission Chairman Robert Atkinson said in an interview. “It’s absolutely critical that we look at it. The members of Congress that are committed to a robust transportation system are certainly very aware of the risks of that system not having as much money as it needs because of the stated policy of the Obama administration.”

The report, released today in Washington, didn’t specify a method or technology for tallying the miles a motorist drives. Atkinson said in an earlier interview that a standard for devices and a mandate that all new vehicles be equipped with them would be needed.

Other commission recommendations:

The 15-member commission recommends the U.S. switch to a vehicle-miles-traveled tax that rises with inflation and phase out the gasoline tax by 2020. The panel also asked Congress to raise the federal gasoline tax as soon as possible by 10 cents a gallon, or 54 percent, from the 18.4 cents a gallon levied since 1993 to help fill the funding gap until the new system is in place.

Oregon is thinking about instituting this kind of program.   Idaho’s governor is considering it.  Drivers in Massachusetts don’t like what they hear about that state’s tentative plan.

Smells like inevitability.   I won’t be surprised to see some form of this end up in Congressional legislation, no matter what President Obama’s press secretary says.

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