The state legislature's Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee met this week to discuss revenue issues facing the state's transportation department.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) presented a potential solution to its revenue shortfall: a road user charge. That's when drivers, both commercial and personal, pay a fee for the miles they drive on state roads and highways. Several states, including some in our region, are working on similar ideas.
WYDOT Director Luke Reiner said the department is at least $135 million short on just maintaining roads. Additionally, the reduced numbers of people driving in the state due to COVID-19 and social distancing has also hurt the department.
Reiner said at first the road user charge would supplement the money WYDOT gets from the fuel tax—its main source of revenue.
"It's directly related to the miles you drive, so it's a user fee. And the other nice thing about it is, with the advent of electric vehicles and other alternate fuel sources, it's not reliant on those and solely independent on roads," he said.
Reiner said the department is working through many challenges that come with a road user charge, such as driver privacy and how to track out-of-state drivers or tourists. The department will be working with a consultant to study the concept more.
Lawmakers will again work on a primary seatbelt law, which has come up in previous sessions.
In Wyoming, drivers can't be pulled over solely for not wearing a seatbelt, but WYDOT officials are recommending that change. Last year saw some of the most fatalities on highways in recent years.
Wyoming Highway Patrol Colonel Kebin Haller said 39 percent of those fatalities were people who were not wearing seatbelts, and a majority were Wyoming residents.
"These numbers are consistent. It is always two to three times higher for Wyoming residents to be killed than non-Wyoming residents for not wearing their seatbelts," he said.
The committee will also consider a bill requiring children to be in rear-facing car seats until the age of two at its September meeting.
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