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Center for Transportation Studies

U of M researchers part of road user-charge study

A team including CTS has been selected by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) to study road user charges. The study— Near-Term-Implementable Mechanisms for Collecting Road User Charges Based on Vehicle-Miles Traveled—will be conducted by ICF International, a global professional services firm; RAND Corporation, a nonprofit global policy think tank; and CTS.

Paul Sorensen of RAND will serve as the principal investigator in this project. He will be advised by Max Donath, director of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute; Lee Munnich, director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs; and Martin Wachs of RAND.

Motor fuel excise taxes have been the principal mechanism for raising highway revenue at the federal and state level for most of the past century. Despite several compelling advantages, their utility over the coming decades may be limited by a combination of structural and political factors. This has led some to suggest that fuel taxes should be replaced by a system of user fees based on vehicle-miles of travel (VMT).

The goals of the NCHRP project are to identify a range of potential options for the near-term implementation of VMT fees, assess their relative strengths and limitations, identify one or more options offering the greatest potential, enumerate the necessary steps to institute VMT fees by 2015, and develop a strategy for phasing in a more sophisticated and flexible system for levying VMT fees over the longer term.

Gina Baas, assistant director of CTS, and Stephanie Malinoff, CTS education and outreach coordinator, will work with Sorensen and Transportation Research Board (TRB) staff to conduct a one-day workshop with panel members and other transportation finance experts in April.

The team’s goal is to produce a report that the TRB can use as a guide to decision making and as useful input to the 2009 transportation authorization process. A final draft report is due in May, and the final report by June 30, 2009.