Caltrans Receives $2.15 Million Federal Grant to Study Road User Charge in Rural Communities

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)— Caltrans received a $2.15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to study impacts of a potential road user charge program in rural communities. The grant builds upon Caltrans’ ongoing research on possible alternatives to the state gas tax to fund road and highway maintenance. In a road charge system, drivers could be charged for the miles they travel rather than the gasoline they use.

“As the state looks toward a zero-emission future, California needs to study alternatives to the gas tax to fund our transportation infrastructure,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “It is critical that we fully understand how a road charge program may uniquely impact rural communities and work together to find solutions.”

With the grant, Caltrans will study the viability of GPS technology in differentiating between public and private roads ― a key area of research. The project will also identify priorities and analyze potential benefits of a statewide road charge program in rural and tribal communities. Caltrans will use volunteers for the study, which it expects to complete in mid-2023.

Caltrans received the grant as part of the USDOT Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives Program, which supports projects that test alternative tools ― such as road charge ― to fund transportation maintenance. This program was established in conjunction with the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, aimed at providing long-term funding certainty for surface transportation nationwide.

This project will be Caltrans’ third road charge study. The initial California Road Charge Pilot launched in 2016 and ran for nine months. During that time, more than 5,000 vehicles from all over the state reported over 37 million miles driven, through six different reporting and recording methods ranging from manual methods to highly technical methods with optional location‐based services. 

Caltrans launched its second project in January to study how best to facilitate an easy user experience. Based on recommendations from the original pilot report, this project simulates a road charge with four technologies: pay at the pump/charge point, usage-based insurance, ridesharing and autonomous vehicles.

California is also partnering with Oregon, which has a voluntary road charge program, on a pilot project to explore issues around interoperability between states and help develop a potential regional system.

To learn more about the California Road Charge program, and the efforts to design a more fair and sustainable way to fund road maintenance, preservation and improvements for all Californians, visit CARoadCharge.com.

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