As more and more vehicles in the overall fleet of registered motor vehicles become increasingly more efficient, with some vehicles now powered partially or completely by electricity, there are naturally increasing concerns about the continued viability of the motor fuels tax as a primary funding source for highway transportation.
A number of possible approaches to deal with this situation have been proposed across the nation, and NCDOT has launched a “FIRST” Commission to specifically focus on the issue of new, sustainable highway funding sources at the state level. RTA supports the efforts of the FIRST commission, and we have offered comments in support of a network “access-based” approach as a simpler method to stabilize highway funding.
The regional business community believes that the simplest way to transition to an access-based approach will be an increase in our state’s existing vehicle registration fees and a concomitant reduction or elimination of motor fuel taxes. The registration fee could also billed on an annual, quarterly, monthly, or even weekly basis — the latter being particularly promising for collecting revenue from visitors to North Carolina if we can detect their temporary vehicle presence here, similar to online tolling.
An access-based approach can help address increasing demands for resources amidst ongoing volatility and increasing obsolescence and unfairness of the motor fuel tax due to the difference in fuel efficiency across the fleet.
RTA also notes that, were an access-based approach in place today, NCDOT would not have experienced the severity of the coronavirus-induced revenue shortfall beginning in March 2020, since a significant reduction in travel would not have resulted in substantially decreased funding for transportation.