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Citizen's View: Per-mile fee won't ease congestion

Randall O’Toole of the Cato Institute made some amazing statements in his recent article (“It makes sense to replace gas tax with per-mile fee,” July 9), trying to persuade us to believe the per-mile tax program would solve all our problems.

If the program is adopted, I believe, as O’Toole does, that it can be engineered so that it doesn’t track our comings and goings in a Big Brother way, and also that it can be legislated so that the funds remain intact for the exclusive use of roads and traffic infrastructure.

However, it was absurd to say that we should imagine a city without congestion if there was only a mechanism in place to tax at a higher rate during rush hour. There will still be a rush hour, with a major traffic influx every morning and evening, unless O’Toole has a plan for not driving to work.  People I am familiar with do not simply go for a leisurely drive during this time.

A mileage tax would raise the number of drivers at 3 a.m.?  Huh?

Let’s look at cause and effect for a moment.  Cars are much more fuel efficient today, and can be much more in the future.  The technology isn’t free, but does reduce fuel usage tremendously.  Every time gas prices drop, we see two directly related things:  The sale of cars like the Prius goes down, and sales of the big pickup trucks soar.

I totally agree that there needs to be more money spent on our roads and most infrastructure, which has been woefully underfunded, thanks to those clever Republicans who won’t raise taxes a nickel, even when it is pointed out, over and over, that the gas tax is completely too low and inadequate to finance any new roads, let alone simple maintenance.

It is time for the gas tax to be doubled or tripled. People can still drive around alone in their jacked-up pickups, but they will pay (dearly I hope) for that privilege.  A tax increase will automatically, as in “market forces,” change driving habits.  There needs to be an incentive to buy and drive fuel-efficient cars, otherwise they will not be sold.

Richard Borich is a resident of Lake Oswego.