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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 6, 2008

Public Policy Center seeks participants for road user study

The University of Iowa Public Policy Center is looking for drivers in nine Eastern Iowa counties to participate in a national study that will test a new approach to financing the nation's roadways. A new approach is needed because the current gas tax is steadily becoming less effective, according to center experts.

The study involves a global positioning system (GPS) that will allow drivers to pay only for the actual number of miles they travel. It is designed to be a fair and confidential way to collect road use taxes, said Lori Jarmon, project manager of operations for the study.

The Public Policy Center is seeking drivers for a field test of the system in the following Eastern Iowa counties: Cedar, Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson, Jones, Linn, Muscatine and Scott. Drivers in several cities across the United States are also being sought for the study. Participants will be paid a total of $895 over the 10-month study.

Starting on Monday. Nov. 3, study participants will have small computers with GPS temporarily installed in their vehicles. The device stores a record of miles traveled. The data is uploaded to a central database that will distribute the tax funds to the states, counties or cities in which the travel took place. If the system were to be put into practice, the vehicle owner would then receive a periodic bill. For the study, however, no money will be collected.

All transactions are private, and the system is not intended to monitor where a vehicle is at a particular time, recording only the total miles driven in a particular state or community. In the first year of the study, 200 participants are needed in Eastern Iowa, as well as in the five other national test sites.

The road user study is funded by a $16.5 million federal grant as part of the 2005 Highway Bill passed by the U.S. Congress to test the system across the nation.

Jarmon said the goals of the study are to test the performance of the technology as well as user acceptance of the new technology, while ensuring the privacy of every motorist. A key requirement of a mileage-based approach to assessing road use charges is the capability to return the revenue collected to the jurisdiction where travel actually occurred.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking at alternative methods of maintaining roadways because of depleting transportation funds. Currently, the Highway Trust Fund supports transportation infrastructure and receives a majority of its funds from the motor fuel tax, which is imposed on every gallon of gasoline purchased. Over the past ten years, because of the continued improvement in fuel efficiency and increase in use of hybrid and cell cars, the motor fuel tax has failed to generate sufficient funds. An important attribute of the mileage-based approach is that it can accommodate any form of vehicle propulsion, Jarmon added.

Interested individuals should visit or call 866-363-1975 for complete study information and to fill out a participant recruitment survey.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
CONTACTS: UI Public Policy Center, 866-363-1975,; Writer: George McCrory

OTHER INFORMATION: For a project overview, see