Congressional Briefing - June 26, 2014

A New Way to Pay for Transportation: Exploring a Shift from Fuel Taxes to Mileage-Based User Fees

highway traffic

Zhu Difeng/Fotolia


Thursday, June 26, 2014


1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.


210 Cannon (Budget Committee Hearing Room)
Washington, D.C.


About the Program

The nation's Highway Trust Fund is nearly empty as Congress confronts the challenge of declining revenues from the federal road fuel tax. Federal and state fuel taxes — paid at the pump on each gallon of gas or diesel — have provided most of the funding for U.S. highway construction and maintenance and, more recently, have supported transit investments as well.

But increasing fuel efficiency and the rise of alternative fuel vehicles that do not use gasoline have led to growing shortfalls in federal and state funding for surface transportation programs — shortfalls that are likely to become even more acute in coming years.

As a result, some state and federal policymakers have begun to explore a shift from taxing fuel to taxing a vehicle's miles of travel instead. Mileage fees based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are viewed by many as a promising alternative to fuel taxes because, among other reasons, VMT revenues would be unaffected by fuel economy or fuel type and fees could be structured to help address other transportation goals, such as reducing congestion, harmful emissions, and road wear. But transitioning from fuel taxes to VMT fees would be a challenging undertaking with many technical, institutional, and political uncertainties to be resolved.

Join us to hear RAND researcher Liisa Ecola discuss:

  • The potential advantages of such mileage fees,
  • Core challenges in replacing fuel taxes with mileage fees, and
  • Recent innovations that states are exploring in mileage-fee pilot tests

About the Speaker

Liisa Ecola is a senior project associate at the RAND Corporation. A transportation planner with interests in transit, transportation demand management, finance, and environmental and land use impacts, she has co-authored three reports about mileage fees: Implementable Strategies for Shifting to Direct Usage-Based Charges for Transportation Funding, Moving Toward Vehicle Miles of Travel Fees to Replace Fuel Taxes: Assessing the Path Forward, and Mileage-Fee Design Strategies to Reduce System Cost and Increase Public Acceptance. Ecola is currently working on projects ranging from long-term mobility trends in developing countries to traffic safety policies. Prior to joining RAND, she worked in transportation, land use, and policy consulting. She received her master of city planning degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

About RAND

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND focuses on the issues that matter most, such as health, education, national security, international affairs, law and business, the environment, and more. As a nonpartisan organization, RAND operates independent of political and commercial pressures. We serve the public interest by helping lawmakers reach informed decisions on the nation's pressing challenges.

View calendar of Congressional briefings View Congressional briefings by topic

Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact