A plan to tax drivers by how much they drive instead of how much gas they use is moving forward.

The state is looking for a consulting firm to set up how it will work.

The Department of Transportation wants to implement what’s known as the road usage charge, because its funding needs to maintain our highways is increasing.

At the same time, revenue from the fuel tax keep coming down. The state believes that charging drivers by the mile is the solution.

Drivers still have a lot of questions on how it’s going to work and whether or not it’s good for them. A consulting firm will be hired to find the answers.

The state says drivers are using more fuel-efficient cars on the roadways, and the popularity of electric vehicles keep increasing.

That means the demand for fuel is also on the decline, so there’s less money for the DOT to fix our roads.

So it’s looking at charging drivers by the mile. We spoke with drivers who are less than enthusiastic about the idea.

“I feel just because I know dealing with government before that they’ll get me some other way, so for me, I’m going to pay no matter what I’m going to pay,” said driver Ricky Walker.

Contrary to popular belief, the state says switching from fuel taxes to a road usage charge will benefit rural residents who drive longer distances.

That’s because many of them drive older, less fuel-efficient vehicles, so this will be a more equitable system.

We reached out to the Hawaii Department of Transportation to ask for an on-camera interview about this, but a spokesman told us no one was available.

DOT sent us a link to a website that said it’s looking to pay a consulting firm up to $7 million for three years to come up with a system that will work.

The company will have to implement an accounting and billing system. It will also set up a testing period in which about 20,000 vehicle owners will manually report odometer readings every week. The consultant will gather that data and then set up an automated system, where two thousand participants will be able to submit their mileage automatically.

In accordance with §103D-304, HRS, the State of Hawaii, Department of Transportation (HDOT), Highways Division (Highways) is seeking qualified consultants to provide professional services for the Hawaii Road Usage Charge Demonstration.  The contract will be a Definite Quantity Contract, in accordance with §3-122-142, HAR.  A contract time of performance of 36 months, and a budget of $7,000,000 are anticipated.

A detailed scope of work can be found online here.

We reached out to University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, who questions why the state is moving forward ahead of so many other states.

“I just wish that we waited a little bit more so bigger states, like California, Washington, can work through the details so we can get a more ready-to-use plan, instead of us paying to develop a ready-to-use plan,” he said.

So far, only Oregon has implemented the road usage charge at a rate of three cents per mile.

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