On Monday, March 18, 2019, The Garden Island published a guest opinion piece titled “Pay per mile proposal doesn’t add up.” The key data point used in this analysis of the Hawaii Road User Charge (HiRUC) concept was incorrect.
The total miles driven statewide in 2017 was 11,350,600,000, not the 1,135,060,000 reported in the article. Use of the incorrect figure results in a road usage charge of 7.2 cents per mile as mentioned in the piece. In reality, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) is researching a charge of 0.72 cents per mile, which would bring in the same revenue as the current gas tax.
It is important to note that increases to highways revenues must go through the proper process in the state Legislature. HDOT is not exploring HiRUC as a means to circumvent this process.
HDOT is exploring this idea because robust infrastructure is essential to the health and well-being of our state, and maintaining robust infrastructure requires a stable and predictable source of funding.
Implementing a road usage charge as a replacement to collecting gas tax at the pump appears to be a possible means of doing that.
The 36-month HiRUC research project will explore the pros and cons related to road usage charge. HDOT is asking the public’s help to determine the pros and cons, which is why we are visiting communities around the state to share information about the concept and solicit input.
In the meantime, the current framework and structure of collecting gas tax will remain in place.
If you redo the calculations in the March 18 piece with the correct numbers, the average Kauai driver, driving 10,322 miles per year in a vehicle that gets 22 miles per gallon, uses about 469 gallons of gas annually.
At the current state gas tax rate of 16 cents per gallon, this driver pays about $75 in gas tax per year. Under a road usage charge scenario at 0.72 cents per mile, the same driver would pay about $75 annually; the same amount — except the driver pays in the form of a road user charge instead of a fuel tax.
Community meetings were held on Kauai in March, and many people attended, candidly sharing their thoughts, concerns and ideas, for which we are grateful. If you missed the meetings, please visit www.hiruc.org and leave your comments.
We are also planning an E-Town Hall meeting on April 18. Public input is essential to our exploration of the road usage charge. At the close of the 36-month project, the findings will be shared with everyone and our elected officials can decide whether or not a road usage charge would be implemented in Hawaii. HDOT appreciates everyone’s input to help assess this concept.
Ed Sniffen is deputy director for the Highways Division of the Hawaii Department of Transportation.