Drivers probably didn’t notice, unless they heard about it somewhere else, but those who have filled up their tanks in Colorado since Saturday paid an extra one cent per gallon on gasoline and two cents per gallon on diesel fuel.
This change, from a $0.02 to $0.03 fee on gas and $0.04 to $0.06 on diesel, was part of Colorado’s SB21-260, a bill pushed through the legislature by Democrats and enacted in 2021 to sustain Colorado’s transportation system.
July 1 was the first day for what the bill called a “road usage fee” but is essentially just an addition to the gasoline excise tax of $0.22 per gallon.
Yet, other states across the country are looking at alternate means to fund transportation, like real road usage fees, which charge drivers by the mile rather than by the gallon, amid increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles.
The federal government is on its way to piloting its own road usage tax program, funded by $125 million from the infrastructure bill signed by Joe Biden in 2021.
While Colorado has elected to impose rising fuel taxes and fees, some other states have begun generating revenue from actual road usage charges.
Oregon, Utah and Virginia are the three states to impose the fees, as fuel efficiency and EV vehicles are causing a widening gap between revenues and transportation infrastructure costs.
Colorado implemented a pilot program for the road usage charges and finished it in 2017.
“New fuel economy standards mandate that new vehicles in 2016 have an average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg and by 2025 that standard increases to 54.4 mph,” the state concluded in its report. “In addition to these new standards, alternative fuel vehicles are becoming more prevalent. Alternative fuel vehicles include full electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas, liquid natural gas, and propane. All of which pay little or no gas tax. Since the current funding model relies on fuel consumed, these new standards and alternative fuel vehicles result in less money to fix the roads.”
CDOT also concluded that the program was feasible and overwhelmingly supported by the participants, which utilized technology like smartphones to track mileage traveled on Colorado roads.
Justin Tubbs is editor for the Montrose Business Times.