Colorado looking at pay-per-mile system as possible replacement for stagnant gas tax |

Colorado looking at pay-per-mile system as possible replacement for stagnant gas tax

A Thunderbird cruises down U.S. Highway 40 near Hilltop Parkway in Steamboat Springs. The Colorado Department of Transportation is researching the feasibility of Colorado drivers paying for every mile they drive instead of a gas tax at the pump.
Scott Franz

— The Colorado Department of Transportation is starting to look into how feasible it would be for drivers in the state to pay for every mile they drive instead of a gas tax at the pump.

CDOT’s Road Usage Charge Pilot Program is specifically testing a system in which drivers would theoretically pay 1.2 cents for every mile they drive as opposed to 22 cents for every gallon of gas they buy.

A group of 100 drivers is being enlisted in a four-month pilot program starting next month.

The drivers won’t pay during the pilot program but will instead be logging their miles to give the state some data on what such a program might look like.

State Transportation Commission Chairwoman Kathy Connell, who represents Northwest Colorado, said Wednesday she is “cautiously curious” about the test of a road usage charge.

She said she has some concerns that such a system could end up hurting drivers in Northwest Colorado and other rural areas who often have to drive more miles to work and other places than drivers on the Front Range.

“My priority has got to be to look at the equality of it all and the fairness of it,” Connell said.

Connell said the road usage charge is only one of several potential funding options to help solve a state transportation-funding crisis.

“There are a lot of people who could be hurt by this if it’s not done correctly,” Connell said.

Other ideas for improving the state’s transportation budget have included a possible sales tax increase.

CDOT says with the current gas tax, the state is facing a $25 billion funding gap over the next 25 years.

The gas tax has not been raised from 22 cents per gallon since 1991.

CDOT doesn’t view the current gas tax as a sustainable funding mechanism because more vehicles are becoming more fuel-efficient and the state’s population is increasing.

CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford told the Denver Post the gas tax is a “dying tax” because it isn’t adjusted for inflation despite road construction costs increasing.

Connell said she feels it was a mistake for the state legislature not to have the gas tax indexed many years ago.

Now, under the current system, electric and fuel-efficient vehicles are not contributing as much toward the upkeep of roads despite having a similar impact as other vehicles.

However, the Post report suggests there could be some challenges with a road usage charge.

An Arvada resident told the Post he thinks it would be a tough sell for drivers of more fuel-efficient vehicles to be penalized and pay more than the current gas tax.

Curious what you might pay under a pay-per-mile system instead of a gas tax?

Click here to compare your estimated contribution based on your fuel-efficiency and driving habits.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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