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Transportation options are changing the future of travel, from EVs to ride share to e-bikes.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF MILWAUKIE - ODOT says big changes are coming to how we travel around Oregon, from e-bikes, to ride share services, to expanded public transportation options.

Big changes are coming to how we travel around Oregon. From e-bikes, to ride share services, to expanded public transportation options, we're changing the way we move. With all of these changes, one thing seems certain: Electric vehicles will play a huge role in the way we drive in the future. We're taking steps every day to get more EVs on the road and reduce transportation-related emissions in Oregon.

In many ways, that's a better future than our present. Cars that rely on internal combustion engines pollute the environment both locally and globally. Air quality is significantly worse near major transportation corridors, and we see corresponding increases in health problems in these areas as a result.PMG FILE IMAGE - Kris Strickler, director of ODOT.

Because EVs don't create any emissions at the source, and because Oregon's energy sector is on track to be fully renewable in the near future, widespread electric vehicle adoption will cause carbon emissions to plummet and air quality to improve.

Yet, with all those good changes, comes one big difficulty: fuel tax revenue will greatly decline and with it, we'll lose the funding source that pays for the most basic services the public relies on, like paving and repairing potholes, plowing snow and making our roads and bridges safer. If we don't move to a new way to pay for our transportation system — and soon — our system could fail.

This is where OReGO, Oregon's road usage charge system, comes in. It was designed to replace the revenue lost from the declining fuels tax. Drivers tell us they think paying by the mile is fair, affordable and simple.

With more drivers using the transportation system, yet paying less to use it, OReGO can provide the reliable funding the system needs well into the future. We can't say that about the fuel tax.

That's because all vehicles on the road are becoming more fuel efficient. Ten years ago, the percentage of gas and diesel vehicles on the road getting better than 20 mpg was around 40%. In 2030, just eight years from now, it will increase to almost 70%. Add to that equation a sharp increase in the number of electric vehicles and the revenue for roads will fall off a cliff.

Oregon soon will have more than 50,000 registered electric vehicles, and that number will continue to grow because:

  • The ownership experience is typically much better than vehicles with internal combustion engines. EV drivers find they are clean, low-maintenance and cost-effective — a competitive selling point for buyers as gas prices skyrocket.
  • Policies encouraging electric vehicle purchases are already having a positive effect. Car manufacturers are embracing electrification. There are now electric models of nearly every vehicle type.
  • Range anxiety is fading as battery life grows longer and charging stations more abundant.
  • New and upgraded charging stations around the state, led and installed by ODOT and the Oregon Transportation Commission, means electric vehicle drivers will be able to travel border-to-border with confidence. New funding will put charging stations on U.S. 97, U.S. 26 and rural routes.
  • The number of electric vehicles on our roads is sharply increasing. We already see the trend accelerating with EV registrations doubling in 2021 compared to 2020.

    Transportation authorities across the country are calling upon Oregon for support because ODOT has tested road usage charging for more than 20 years. We launched OReGO in 2015 and have run the voluntary system successfully ever since.

    It's time for widespread adoption. If it's made mandatory by the Legislature for new vehicle purchases, a road usage charge system would likely not be fully implemented until at least 2029. That means reduced maintenance and worse roads are already coming in the near future.

    Any delay in broad adoption just means a bigger funding gap and a worsened transportation system. We can't maintain our system with sporadic, piecemeal funding as we've been doing. We need reliable, long-term solutions.

    We can design a better, more equitable system that charges people for use and doesn't rely on fossil fuels to maintain our network. It's time to implement road usage charging in Oregon.

    Kris Strickler is director of ODOT. Comments can be directed to 888-Ask-ODOT or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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