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4 East Coast states to test mileage tax

If you're reading this, thank you. You could be one of the 43 million Americans who've already headed out this long Independence Day holiday. I appreciate you delaying your trip, or at least checking this post, fittingly, on your mobile device.

Giphy near wreck passingMore states are exploring mileage taxes to replace gas taxes. Maybe they should look at taxing dangerous drivers like this guy!

AAA's travel prediction this year represents the biggest July 4th travel volume on record and includes 5 million more travelers than we saw during the Memorial Day break, generally seen as the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.

The figure might be helped by the fact that the Fourth of July this year is on a Monday, giving most workers a long weekend. Also, AAA's travel calculations cover trips taken from Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.

Inviting pump prices: Still-low gasoline prices, the cheapest on this holiday since 2005, also are encouraging drivers to venture out and little further.

The low fuel costs help offset the gas excise taxes, charged by the United States and many of the states. Four heavily trafficked eastern states, however, think it might be time to re-do how they collect money from drivers.

I-95 Corridor Coalition, which represents transportation agencies, toll authorities, and related organizations, has applied for a federal grant that would let several northeastern states test methods that could replace a gas tax.

One of those alternatives is charging drivers a fee based on how many miles they drive.

Increased interest in mileage taxes: Under the grant, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire will implement pilot programs to test a mileage tax. Vermont also has signed on for the planning portion of the project, but financial constraints mean it will not conduct its own pilot.

On the other side of the country, Nevada and Oregon have already run their own mileage tax tests. California will begin testing it this month.

Mileage taxes in lieu of fuel taxes started getting more attention when hybrid and electric autos started making inroads into the consumer auto market. Since those vehicles don't use any or as much traditional fossil fuel, the drivers don't pay the excise taxes. But they still use the roads and other infrastructure that the fuel taxes fund.

"The idea is to get folks comfortable that mileage-based user fees are a feasible, reasonable and easy-to-use approach," Patricia G. Hendren, executive director of the I-95 Coalition, told The Washington Post.

Gas taxes still preferred: Logic and feasibility, however, don't sway a lot of drivers.

A June 2016 survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute found that support for a 1-cent per mile tax was only 23 percent, down a percentage point from just a year ago. Support went up, however, to 48 percent, four point higher than in 2015, when that same mileage tax amount was based on based on cars' pollution emissions.

Of course, most drivers and politicians also are averse to raising fuel taxes. Although some states have taken steps to hike their gas taxes, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., haven't touched the federal 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax since 1993.

But something's got to give or our already crumbling roads and bridges definitely will.

That, however, is something to think about once you return from your July 4th holiday. Wherever you go and however you get there, here's to safe and easy travel. 

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