Cantwell Announces More Than $5.5M in Funding For Washington State Transportation Commission To Study Gas Tax Alternative for Funding Highway Maintenance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced that the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) will receive $5,525,00 in federal funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) grant program. The funding will go to support research on Road Usage Charging (RUC) to prepare for a potential future transition toward funding highway maintenance based on how much individual people drive, rather than relying on revenue generated from the gas tax.

“Advancements in vehicle fuel efficiency continue to decrease gas consumption, reducing emissions, improving air quality, and benefitting the health of our communities,” Senator Cantwell said in a letter supporting the department’s grant application in October. “According to the Washington State Transportation Commission, in Washington state this increase in efficiency would reduce gas tax revenue by 45 percent, severely limiting the state’s ability to maintain state of good repair on public roads and bridges.” 

“There are many considerations and challenges we must address as we consider transitioning away from the gas tax to a Road Usage Charge system. Federal funding has been key to advancing our state’s research, and we are grateful for this support which allows us to continue our work in a thorough, inclusive manner,” said Washington State Transportation Commission Chair Jerry Litt.  

With previous funding from the STSFA grant program in 2017, Washington state launched a pilot program in which 2,000 drivers across the State tested different RUC reporting methods and explored other operational challenges. This grant funding will allow the WSTC to continue its important research and generate a detailed phase-in plan, an equity analysis, a RUC prototype “sub-test,” and a RUC roadmap. Additionally, this funding will support the WSTC in creating a framework for modeling the effects of emerging vehicle technology on a RUC system in Washington state, such as Electric-Vehicles (EVs), Automated-Vehicles (A/Vs), and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft

The STSFA is a grant program administered by FHWA that was created in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 to provide grants for states to demonstrate user-based alternative revenue mechanisms that utilize a user fee structure to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.