GLEN JOHNSON
The Associated Press
February 18, 2009

A tentative plan to overhaul Massachusetts’ transportation system by using GPS chips to charge motorists a quarter-cent for every mile behind the wheel has angered some drivers.

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“It’s outrageous, it’s kind of Orwellian, Big Brotherish,” said Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, who drafted legislation last week to prohibit the practice. “You’d need a whole new department of cronies just to keep track of it.”

But a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” program like the one the governor may unveil this week has already been tested , with positive results , in Oregon.

Governors in Idaho and Rhode Island, as well as the federal government, also are talking about such programs. And in North Carolina, a panel suggested in December the state start charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax.

“The Big Brother issue was identified during the first meeting of the task force that developed our program,” said Jim Whitty, who oversees innovation projects for the Oregon Department of Transportation. “Everything we did from that point forward, even though we used electronics, was to eliminate those concerns.”

A draft overhaul transport plan prepared for Gov. Deval Patrick says implementing a Vehicle Miles Traveled system to replace the gas tax makes sense. “A user-based system, collected electronically, is a fair way to pay for our transportation needs in the future,” it says.

Patrick, who had yet to settle on any of the ideas contained in the draft, told reporters last week, “I like any idea that is faster, cheaper, simpler.”

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