Road usage charge about the same as gas tax

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 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.

  1. TripleTax April 4, 2019 3:48 am Reply

    Triple taxing the people of Hawaii hasn’t brought “robust infrastructure requires a stable and predictable source of funding.” the funding has been there for years and the federal government audits the state and only 20% (5/25) of the repairs were being worked on or done. The federal government also discovered missing funds, paying millions for materials the state had already bought, and over 200 million unspent on highway repairs.

    You come here to represent that Hawaii DOT has a better plan to triple tax the citizens. While I say the state is trying to quadruple tax the people and hide the fact that this is to cover the Rail project. The pork is running out and investigations are uncovering a massive theft ring at the state level.

    Hawaii DOT can’t even solve the cone head problem in Kapaa and yet they want more money because they have no more money from people Who are already suffering from over inflated prices.

    Go back to Oahu and try to scam your sheep so you guys can go to Las Vegas and blow away whatever you people can leech from the islands.

    People don’t be fooled by the same people who said that the vehicle registration increase is to “robust infrastructure requires a stable and predictable source of funding.”

  2. Patrick H Flores April 4, 2019 10:11 am Reply

    Regarding the decision to change to a per mile driven fee from a per gallon tax, which ever way this ends up, please DOT, be good stewards of the funds to use them only for the stated purpose. Thank you for giving me a chance to state my opinion, Patrick Flores, Wailua Houselots.

  3. AVEGAS43 April 4, 2019 12:15 pm Reply


  4. AlohaMac April 4, 2019 5:47 pm Reply


    This tax is contrary to the logic of making people pay for the nuisances linked to heavy oil usage: air pollution, green house gas emissions, off shore and inland drilling, importation of oil from the mainland, Alaska, the tar sands of Alberta and the middle east etc.

    On top of that most vehicles with low gas milage are heavier and provoke faster wear and tear on our roads.

    This measure will actually make it cheaper to drive idiotic lifted trucks than currently which is completely contrary to energy efficiency and is yet another way to accelerate climate change… At least since soon parts of Kuhio highway will be underwater the road maintenance issue and Kapaa crawl issue will at last be solved! 🙂

  5. Check your math April 4, 2019 8:40 pm Reply

    469 gallons at 22 miles per gallon = 469 x 22 = 10,318 (Close enough to your number, for governments sake)
    .16 per gallon x 469 gallons = $75..04
    .72 per mile charge x 10,322 miles per year = $7,431.84 ( Does this = $75.00 NO)
    Assuming this was a misprint and the writer meant .072 per mile x 10,322 miles = $743.18 (Does this = $75.00? Still, NO)
    The per mile tax would have to be .0072 per mile to equal roughly $75.00 per year. Just so you know how to say that number it is 72 ten thousandths of a penny.
    If you want to make this an equal equation as you stated, then, YES!!! Thanks Ed. I’ll pay .0072 per mile instead of .16 per gallon Lets do this!!! Vote now!!!

  6. Rev Dr. Malama April 5, 2019 6:18 am Reply

    I read recently that the DOT has an excessive amount of money into the hundreds of millions of dollars that has not been used for decades to fix, maintain and adapt to the pressure of climate change and over use…. much less for training and other employee benefits.
    Hmmm, we need another “study” ? NOT!!!

  7. Z April 5, 2019 10:31 am Reply

    The contyshould tax the tourist not the locals .we need our cars for work n doing our daily chores .put a tax on the mainlanders that bought land for there get away homes which stay idle for 80% of the time .maybe a head tax for the visitors n quit putting the burden on the locals

    1. Jake April 12, 2019 9:49 am Reply

      Well written comment with good sentence structure and grammar. Kauai education at its best.

      Got news for you Bud, ….true foreigners, not “Mainlanders” are buying the property. And so what if they stay idle for 80% of the time….it’s their house.

      So, “locals” pay no tax, and tourists pay all the taxes?…..Well thought out with some great points, and critical thinking.

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