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Public Meetings Scheduled For Potential Road Usage Charge

Anthony Quintano
Civil Beat

The state Department of Transportation will be holding community meetings across the state starting on March 20 in Kapolei to get feedback on a possible road usage charge.

DOT officials are discussing the possibility of charging for road use in place of the state's gas tax. The state Department of Transportation raises all of its funds and revenues in order to maintain the state's roads and highways, and the department relies heavily on the gas tax to fund maintenance work.

But over the years, the 16-cent-per-gallon fuel tax has not generated enough to maintain the state's roads and highways. "The fuel tax is actually the same rate now as it was back in 1991," said Tim Sakahara, DOT spokesman. "Yet the cost of construction and operating have increased steadily over that time."

Sakahara says the DOT is projecting a decrease in gas tax revenues in the coming years, possibly because of the popularity of fuel-efficient cars. So officials are looking at ways to charge a set fee based on miles driven instead of how much gas a car consumes.

Sakahara says the proposed charge is not a road toll, and the meetings will cover various ways of tracking a car's mileage.

"For example, we have the safety check every year, and it reads your odometer," said Sakahara. "And we can see if you drove a 100 miles, or a 1,000 miles, or 10,000 miles in a year. You would get charged a cent or whatever it works out to be agreed upon."

The meetings will allow DOT officials to gauge whether residents would support the department plan to change how it collects funds to cover road maintenance costs.

"This is certainly not a done deal," said Sakahara. "It's a demonstration or a study. And it will have legislative approval at the end of it. The lawmakers at the Capitol will have the final say or determine if, and how, it proceeds."

Sakahara stresses if the proposed road usage charge is implemented, it would replace the current gas tax.

More information about the proposed road usage charge and the schedule of community meetings are available on the Hawaii Road Usage Charge Demontration website

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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