Portland Press Hearld
July 15, 2009

[efoods]Wanted: 250 Maine drivers willing to let a stranger put a black box under their dashboard.

The reward: $895 and the opportunity to speak their minds about the highway tax experiment to a researcher.

University of Iowa researchers are seeking 250 motorists in Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties willing to have a computer tracking system installed in their cars for 10 months. The system could someday be used to tax drivers according to the number of miles they drive, rather than the amount of gasoline they consume.

Portland is one of six cities picked for the research, which is designed to determine whether a mileage tax would work better than the gas tax to support the country’s highway system.

Advertising for volunteers in Maine will start at the end of the month, said John Kuhl, an electrical and computer engineering professor in charge of the research. The aim of the study is not just to see whether the technology works, but also to find out whether drivers would accept it.

The $16.5 million study for the U.S. Department of Transportation was authorized in 2005 by Congress, which like the Maine Legislature and other state lawmaking bodies, has been grappling with how to fund the nation’s aging highway system.

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