CSAC Bulletin Article

Help bring the Rural County Voice to the Future of Transportation Funding

January 5, 2023

California is exploring an alternative to the gas tax and is recruiting members of rural and tribal communities to provide input on the policy idea and take part in the pilot.

Fuel taxes fund much of California’s transportation system, including the repair of local roads and bridges. The federal government also relies on the gas tax to fund transportation projects. However, fuel purchases will eventually decline as California transitions to electric and other clean air vehicles in the future. In addition, because they tend to drive less fuel efficient vehicles, on average rural drivers pay more to use the road than their urban counterparts. To address this funding concern and unfair structure, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1077 in 2014, and Senate Bill 339 in 2021, to study the potential of a transportation tax based on a per-mile fee, known as a road usage charge.

Rural and tribal communities have unique needs that could interact in different ways with a road charge system. It is important to explore and understand these opportunities and issues and make sure these voices are heard as this potential policy is developed.   Caltrans would be happy to attend any local government or community group meetings in rural counties to talk about this new policy idea and hear feedback directly from your community.  If interested, please contact Lauren Prehoda at lauren.prehoda@dot.ca.gov.

In 2023, Caltrans will conduct further research to explore these issues and aims to recruit participants from rural and tribal communities. The research pilot, known as the Public/Private Roads Project, will gather essential information for planning how a road charge program could address travel on and off public, private, and tribal roadways. The state is offering incentives of up to $250 for community members to take part in a 7-month pilot launching in March 2023.

Share the link to sign up to participate: http://www.caroadcharge.com/engage/contact-us/

In the pilot, participants will use plug-in devices that report their miles traveled as well as whether the vehicle is traveling on public, private, or tribal lands. Vehicle location information will be sanitized (deleted and non-recoverable from collection devices), and Caltrans will not receive any location-specific data from pilot participants’ unique vehicle.

This is an opportunity for California motorists, especially those in rural and tribal communities, to have an active voice in shaping how California can provide a fairer, more transparent, and future-ready transportation funding mechanism.

For more history and information on California Road Charge visit https://caroadcharge.com. Wondering what tax implications this has for your constituents?  Run the numbers yourself with the Road Charge Calculator: https://caroadcharge.com/about .

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