California wants to pay you $400 for ‘Road Charge' program

It's part of a statewide pilot program to test out a new funding scheme for road repairs and maintenance as fewer Californians pay the gasoline tax at the pump.

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As California gets closer to 2035, when selling gas-powered cars would be banned, state officials are now faced with a dilemma : how to fund road maintenance and other transportation projects.

As the gasoline tax that drivers with gas-powered cars pay at the pump makes up nearly 80% of freeway and road repairs, fewer Californians are using gas cars, and state funding that is fueled by the gas tax is dwindling.

California is considering Road Charge, an alternative funding system that would replace the gas tax, which funds most road repair maintenance projects, and charge all drivers, including those with electric vehicles who do not pay the gas tax at the pump.

With more EVs than gas-powered cars likely being on the road, the state is planning for the future.

“We’re trying to plan ahead and study for some potential replacement to the gas tax,” Lauren Prehoda, a Caltrans Road Charge Program manager, said.

To test out future ways to tax drivers more evenly, a financial incentive will be offered for 800 car owners who will take part in the Road Charge pilot program

“For the first time, we will be collecting revenue from participants,” Prehoda said. “They will be paying a bill every month for six months.”

Here’s how California Road Charge works

Just like Californians pay their gas or electric bills based on their usage, a road charge program will issue a fee to each driver based on how many miles driven per month.

  1. Participants can sign up here between May and June by filling out a questionnaire here. 
  1. Once 800 participants are selected throughout the state, they will have to enroll through the link provided by the state. 
  1. After participants drive as they normally do from August 2024 to January 2025, they will pay monthly Road Charge payments online.
  2. Once all required activities, including surveys, throughout the pilot are complete, drivers can earn up to $400 with the first $100 being distributed in September 2024 and the rest in February 2025.

One tax after another?

While the state argues EV owners still pay far less than gas car owners for car maintenance and energy costs, some EV drivers remain skeptical about the idea.

“One tax after another, it’s just never going to end,” Howard Alonzo, an electric car owner, said. :

But Prehoda said the decision to launch the pilot program, before potentially applying the new rules to all Californians, was based on research and focus group polling. 

“I think there's a lot of recognition amongst those drivers that we do need to pay our fair share for road maintenance,”Prehoda said.

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