Oregon Is First State to Charge Drivers for Each Mile They Drive

By Susan Jones | July 6, 2015 | 11:24 AM EDT

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is among the first to sign up for Oregon's new road user-fee. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - When he's not riding his bicycle, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, said he's driving a fuel-efficient hybrid, and that's a problem, because it means he's not paying his "fair share" for highway maintenance.

Blumenauer says that's why he signed up for OReGO, the nation's first program to charge drivers based on the number of miles they drive.

The program launched on July 1. It is voluntary at the moment, but Blumenauer expects that to change:

"I'm excited to be one of the first 5,000 volunteers in the OReGO program, because I'm convinced that as a state and as a nation we should not pay for transportation based on how much fuel we consume," he said in a videotaped message for OReGO:

He noted that gas taxes are no longer an effective highway user-fee due to inflation and increasing fuel efficiency.

"Oregon brought America the first gas tax dedicated to road construction in 1919," Blumenauer said. "Within a decade, every state in the union had followed suit, and the first federal gas tax was levied shortly thereafter. Now oregon is once again ahead of the curve. OReGO is the largest program in the country exploring a road usage charge as an alternative to the gas tax, and other states are already following suit.

"I've introduced legislation in Congress that would fund projects like OReGO all across the country."

Blumenauer said the program will "improve the way we drive and the way we plan our commumnities as well as our trips."

He said it will help his state pay for a 21st transportation system and "will lead the way for the nation to follow suit.

The road-usage charge is currently set at 1.5 cents per mile. Participants with the GPS-enabled option are not charged for out-of-state road usage.

And for people worried about privacy issues, the OReGO website says volunteers who enroll in the program will have their personal information "kept secure and private."