Nearly 300 Portland-area volunteers began participating in the Oregon Road User Fee Pilot Program, a proposed mileage-based system that would replace the state’s gas tax. The mileage fee relies on a global positioning device, installed within the car, that can track the number of miles a driver travels. The transmitter sends a signal to the gas pump, which computes and adds the mileage fee to the cost of the gasoline. The new system would only tax drivers for miles traveled within the state of Oregon.

The Road User Fee Task Force will evaluate the pilot program and issue a report on its findings in the summer of 2007. If approved, the system would not likely go into effect for at least another decade.

An innovative approach to energy conservation and tax revenue, the program could become a national model for the funding of roadways.

Currently, Oregon charges a 24-cent-per-gallon gas tax, which is used to fund road maintenance. That tax has remained at the same level since 1993, and some state leaders fear that the money will not sufficiently support the cost of maintaining the state’s roads in the future.

The Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding, a division of the Oregon Department of Transportation, is sponsoring the pilot.