The California Department of Transportation wants you to help it test different ways that it might someday soon charge drivers for how much they drive.

That road charge, officials hope, could replace or supplement the gasoline tax. The gas tax is in trouble because it no longer brings in enough money to keep up with repairs to California highways.

State officials want to test four different ways to bill the road charge to drivers: having drivers purchase permits that would allow them unlimited miles for a set time period such as a week or a month, selling drivers permits to drive a certain number of miles, having drivers report their odometer readings and charging them based on those readings, or using tracking devices in vehicles (it could be smartphones) that would allow the state to automatically bill motorists based on mileage.

The devices option would make it possible to bill drivers for time on state roads but not for time on private roads or on roads outside of California.

A Caltrans spokesman will discuss the California Road Charge Pilot Program during a meeting of the Calaveras Council of Governments at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Board of Supervisors chambers, 891 Mountain Ranch Road, San Andreas.

According to a Caltrans road charge brochure, most of the state’s major roadways have met or exceeded their design life.

Road repairs are currently paid for by a base excise gas tax set at 18 cents a gallon. (There are other types of taxes on gasoline sold in California, too. According to the Board of Equalization, the total excise tax on gasoline is 30 cents per gallon, but will be reduced to 27.8 cents on July 1.)

The base excise tax that pays for road repairs has been the same for 20 years. Thanks to inflation and more efficient cars, the base excise gas tax revenue now pays for only about half as many repairs as it once did.

Caltrans says that under the current tax system, there will be a shortfall of nearly $57 billion dollars in repairs over the next ten years.

Mitch Weiss, deputy director of the California Transportation Commission, will discuss the program, its rural component and then will ask for volunteers to become part of the pilot program.

The pilot program results will be used in December 2017 when Caltrans drafts its recommendation to the legislature on how the program should work.

According to Caltrans, there will be simulated charges, but volunteers will not pay for anything.

Five thousand volunteers will be recruited statewide for the Road Charge Pilot Program. State officials hope to attract people of all income levels and with many different types of vehicles.


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