The Hawaii Department of Transportation is proposing a “road usage charge” that would have drivers paying about 8/10s of a penny for every mile they drive, instead of a 16 cents a gallon fuel tax when they fill up their gas tanks.
The Hawaii Department of transportation says with electric cars becoming more popular, the gas tax isn’t bringing in enough money to keep Hawaii roads maintained.
But some drivers are concerned about the change.
“I myself am kind of opposed to it just because right now you feel bad for those who cant afford to live in town and they have to commute longer, more mileage than those who work in town,” said Kari Watase, a driver.
Tim Sakahara with the state Department of Transportation says, they are still in the research and development process, but they have taken a look into these concerns.
“There are concerns that possibly the lower income or the rural drivers are going to be hit harder, when in reality actually studies have shown and the research has shown that lower income or rural drivers tend to drive older, less fuel efficient vehicles,” said Sakahara. “So in that case, they actually pay more because they consume more fuel, whereas with the road usage charge, it’s likely that they drive those less fuel efficient cars, they’ll save money. “
He also says that while nothing is set in stone, they have been looking into different ways to charge people this new fee.
“Some of the options that Hawaii has going for it is the annual safety check where the odometer readings for vehicles is already collected. So thats one option. There’s other options to plug in a device in the car that can read your odometer or an app on your phone,” said Sakahara.
There may even be exemptions after some feedback they’ve gotten on other islands.
“People who drive on like rural roads per say, farmers or agriculture, that is one of the exemptions that would possibly be looked at and studied,” said Sakahara.
After these meetings, he says drivers will be sent statements in the fall of how much they could pay under the road usage charge.
“We do want people to know we’re not here to defend the road usage charge. We’re not here to sell it to people, we really are just here to collect that feedback and hear their voice and their comments and questions,” said Sakahara.
The research process of the “road usage charge” began in August, 2018 and will last about three years before people can start to see it become implemented.
There will be two more meetings on Oahu and one more on Hawaii Island.
The next meeting on Oahu will be held at Castle High School cafeteria from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. On Thursday an online meeting will be held online, which will be live on YouTube at this link from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. That will be open everyone across the state. Finally, there will be a final meeting in Hilo on May 9, time and place still need to be decided.
For more information on the “road usage charge” and to check upcoming meetings, you can visit the official website here.