by Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator
Infrastructure maintenance continues to be costly and finding equitable solutions to pay for it will be challenging. Historically, infrastructure repairs fell on the revenue made from the gas tax. The gas tax had been a fair way to have all infrastructure users pay their share. With the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles (eg. Zero emissions vehicles (ZEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV)) on the rise, especially out west, relaying on trips to the gas pump to fix the highways is not sustainable.
Currently, eight states have passed bills that include a form of assessment on ZEVs and BEVs. These assessments include an additional registration fee and/or licensing fees. These two revenue forms do not demand an upstart cost and are easy to implement. In-terms of other revenue sources (eg. mileage based fees) a couple of states have discussed introducing a bill for this; but the State of Arizona is the only that tried to pass a bill, but it didn’t get any traction.
Even though the sale of vehicles that have zero or reduced emissions is on the rise, putting something in place to track vehicle distance or mileage is still a ways off. California, who is leading the nation with the number of ZEVs and BEVs, has recently considered developing a mechanism to tax per mile someone who has one of these vehicles. Ideas that have been discussed include: tracking your mileage every time you pull up to the gas station or charging station; or retro vehicles with a tracker (collecting miles driven). Tracking miles would require additional funds for operation and administration.
A recent MassDOT published report by UMTC Research Affiliates Song Gao and Michael Plotnikov titled: Zero Emission Vehicles: Impacts on Transportation Revenue, states that Massachusetts currently pays for their infrastructure maintenance through a state and federal gas tax, vehicle registration fees, and the purchase and use tax. MA passed a bill earlier this year, promoting electric vehicle use. There continues to be discussion in MA about other ways users of ZEV and BEV can financially contribute to maintaining the transportation infrastructure.