Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 11:44 a.m.
Every day, we rely on our roads to keep us, and our economy, moving. But, in future years, Nevada will be billions short in funding road construction and maintenance for these reasons and others:
• Current funding for road construction, maintenance and operations comes from fuel taxes. Today, due to inflation, these fuel taxes cover approximately half of the road construction, maintenance and operations costs per gallon that they funded when last raised in 1992.
• By 2016, vehicle fuel efficiency will increase to an average 37 miles a gallon and an estimated 20 percent of new vehicles will run on alternative fuel. While an important positive for our environment, this will lead to less road funding collected from fuel taxes per gallon.
The Nevada Transportation Department and university researchers are embarking on phase two of the Vehicle Miles Traveled Fee Study to evaluate vehicle miles traveled fees as a potential fuel tax replacement to fund Nevada’s public roads. In a VMT system, users are charged a fee based on the number of miles driven, and do not pay per-gallon fuel taxes.
This is not an additional tax. It is a potential future replacement for current taxes paid at the pump, and it would charge miles traveled much as current gasoline taxes charge amount traveled through gallons of gasoline purchased.
Public meetings have been held to discuss important questions about potential VMT systems. Can the system meet the demands of changing times? How will it ensure accuracy, security and ease of payment? What about equity among different vehicle types? Can the highest level of accountability and transparency be achieved? Which system would allow the public the most input and oversight? These vital questions will continue to be evaluated in phase two of the study.
We also know how critical it is that driver privacy be protected. The study is reviewing a system that takes a simple odometer reading at the gas pump without tracking identifying information about the driver or time or location of travel.
In the future, should the fuel tax need to be replaced with another funding source, Nevada needs to be ready with an equitable and proven option that has been shown to work in this state. To provide information on the VMT concept and study, as well as gather your feedback, a public meeting will be held from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. July 28 at the East Las Vegas Community Center, Ballroom A, located at 250 N. Eastern Ave. in Las Vegas. Those interested can also log onto www.vmtfeenv.com for more information. We hope all Nevadans will join in this important discussion and study.
Susan Martinovich is director of the Nevada Transportation Department.