Oregon examines driving tax

PORTLAND – The Oregon Department of Transportation will test a road tax based on miles driven – and measured with help from smartphones – as an alternative to the gasoline tax.

The pilot program is part of a bigger plan by a state task force looking for alternatives to the gasoline tax and could add evidence that the fuel levy is not keeping up with demands of Oregon roads.

“People ask why don’t we just raise the gas tax, and it’s because that doesn’t apply to cars that are burning so little fuel,” said James Whitty, program manager of the pilot program.

The department in 2006 started a similar pilot program using a global positioning system device to track mileage. That drew complaints that the government could spy on vehicles.

Privately manufactured new devices offer three options. Whitty said two are GPS-based so drivers can avoid charges for driving out of state or on non-public roads, such as ranches. A third device simply counts miles.

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