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Lawmakers uneasy about highway user fee pilot project - Honolulu, Hawaii news, sports & weather - KITV Channel 4

Lawmakers uneasy about highway user fee pilot project

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For Hawaii motorists, it's always been you pay at the pump, but electric cars are changing all that.

So far, five thousand drivers across the state have switched from gas guzzlers to green cars, either electric vehicles or hybrids.

But, by not paying a gas tax at the pump, those green drivers don’t put anything into the fund to repair our highways.

As laws mandate more fuel efficient cars and trucks, state transportation officials said they have to either double the gas tax, or find some a more fair way to charge users.

State Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami, who drives a truck in from Kapolei, tried to explain why paying a fee rather than at the pump may save him money.

"They looked at how much time I spent in traffic burning more fuel, and when they actually came up with a cost per mile to drive, it would have been less for me to pay a per mile charge, than it would have cost me to pay for fuel," said Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami.

But if this House finance budget briefing is any indication the DOT has far to go before it can get lawmakers on board with the plan.

An Ewa Beach lawmaker who drives a green car doesn’t buy what he thinks is state spin. He said it would be simpler to just charge electric car drivers a fee.

"There is already a disproportionate cost laid on Central and west Oahu drivers to pay for for the infrastructure of the state and a lot of that goes to the neighbor islands. This will exacerbate that," said Rep. Matt Lopresti.

An East Honolulu lawmaker questions the impact on rail.

"I'm not saying there is a conspiratorial thing, but it looks like if it's too expensive to drive in from the west side that rail may be cheaper," said Rep. Gene Ward of Hawaii Kai.

The DOT will need 5,000 volunteers for the pilot project.

Rep. Cedric Gates who drives 70 miles a day in from Waianae is volunteering and so is the lawmaker from Kahaluu.

"I think there is a misconception that this is going to dramatically, and unfairly impact computers who drive long distances, over commuters who drive short distances," said Rep. Jarrett Keohokahole.

The DOT says the bottom line is the 16-cent per gallon gas tax isn’t enough to do the repairs needed on the highways and bridges we drive on. Look for the three-year pilot to begin later this year.

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