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States use revenue from gas taxes to help pay for road and bridge maintenance, but electric vehicles do not use gas. So as hybrid cars and electric vehicles become more popular, states may find themselves short on funds.

“When we get to a certain level, no doubt it’s going to be impacting our revenue and start constraining our ability to maintain our roads and bridges,” says Michelle Godfrey of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Her state is one of many that is exploring solutions.

“Every state in the nation is experiencing the same problem,” Godfrey says. “It’s universal.”

Since 2015, Oregon has offered drivers the option of paying a per-mile charge called a road usage charge instead of a gas tax.

Participants receive a device that plugs into their car and tracks how far they drive. Then they pay 1.9 cents per mile and receive a credit for any gas tax they’ve paid.

“It’s all seamless to the driver,” Godfrey says. “It’s all electronic and wireless.”

The program is currently voluntary. But as gas consumption declines, states will need to find new ways to fund road and bridge maintenance.

“And we think that the road usage charge program as we’ve designed it meets that need,” Godfrey says.

So it could lay the groundwork for legislation in Oregon and beyond.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media