Should we pay per mile instead of per gallon?

State planners estimate there is a $36 billion gap with the amount of transportation projects identified with the funding available. The Washington State Department of Transportation’s list of unfunded needs is long and includes major Snohomish County projects, like a new U.S. 2 trestle.

Like other states, decision-makers are looking at a variety of possibilities to fill that gap.

Road usage charging as a potential transportation funding source will be a focus of discussion when the Washington State Transportation Commission meets Dec. 8-9 in Olympia.

The meeting starts 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, and 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The meeting is open to the public. Public comment periods are at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday and at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The commission is looking at a road usage charge — also known as pay-per-mile fees and by other similar names — as a potential replacement for the gas tax.

The commission is to report its recommendations to the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee in January.

Oregon is furthest along in trying this kind of funding.

Road usage charges would join other funding sources, including tolling.

The gas tax is still the biggest revenue-generator for the state and a pot the Legislature is leveraging more and more. By next summer, Washington will have the second-highest gas tax in the nation. In 2014, the state Department of Licensing collected over $1.2 billion fuel tax revenue for the state.

A portion of the sales tax and general property taxes also figure into the transportation funding mix.

Other ideas on the table have included major emissions fees and fare increases for ferries, trains and buses.

Have a question? Email us at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence. Look for updates on the Street Smarts blog.

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