HB 2026: Transitioning to a Road Usage Charge

Following a Work Session and update from the Washington State Transportation Commission regarding the same subject, House Bill 2026, relating to implementing a Road Usage Charge on vehicles was heard with much interest on Thursday in the House Transportation Committee.

The County Engineers Association testified “other” with these concerns:

The bill would replace the current electric vehicle registration fee, with a per-mile charge, placing the revenue into a new Road Usage Charge Account. This would potentially have a negative impact on our ability to maintain county roads. Currently, 15% of the electric vehicle registration fee is deposited into the Rural Arterial Trust Account and that account provides critical revenue for the preservation and reconstruction of county roads. The estimated revenue loss to the County Road Administration Board is almost $4 million for the 2026-2027 biennium.

The Washington State Association of Counties policy states:

As owners of over 50% of the transportation system, Counties support that any increase to the State Motor Fuel Tax, a Road Usage Charge, or similar system designed for funding transportation, Counties should receive a proportionate share (at least 50%), if not more, in the increase realized.”

As noted in our policy, Counties are responsible for maintaining roughly half of all state-wide lane miles and bridges, and based on our recently completed analysis, our annual base funding gap for county transportation programmatic and capital needs is estimated to be around $1 billion every year and climbing.

Our concern with the potential revenue loss in this bill is a concern we will continue to have moving forward overall. As counties continue to face rising construction costs, the need to repair fish barriers, and to fix structurally deficient bridges, maybe more now than ever, we require help from the state legislature to get these jobs done.

As cutoff is just around the corner, HB 2026 may not pass out of committee; however, the Work Session and hearing are a sign of what’s to come over the course of the interim and in years ahead. As traditional transportation revenues decline and disappear, the state needs to continue studying and exploring new revenue streams. The Washington State Association of County Engineers supports this work but believes that any new revenues, including a Road Usage Charge, must be equitably and proportionally shared with counties.