Road Charge Projects

Public/Private Roads Project

The Public/Private Road Charge Project pilot has concluded!

The Public/Private Roads Project tested the ability of current GPS technology to differentiate when a car is driving on a public versus a private road, while protecting the user’s privacy. Currently, when a driver is on a private road, they are still paying the gas tax even though no public money goes to the maintenance of that road. While there is a process to request refunds for the gas tax paid while driving on private roads, many Californians either don’t know or have the time to pursue the process. Could a road charge system create a simpler way to distinguish between public and private roads for travelers?

While exploring the technical aspects of this pilot, this project aims to engage rural and tribal communities in a conversation about their communities’ priorities in a potential road charge system. These are unique communities that may have unique impacts, and understanding the issues, concerns, and opportunities the new concept presents for them is important to the state’s effort to create a potential road charge system that works for all Californians.

Caltrans partnered with The Toll Roads to test the functionality of a tolling agency serving as a third-party commercial account manager in a road charge system. This effort explored the crossover between tolling and road charge and the opportunities to create an easy taxpayer experience and keep administrative costs down.

The pilot started April 2023 and concluded in September 2023.

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About Participation and Incentives

Pilot Details

The 2023 California Road Charge Public/Private Roads Pilot gathered essential information for evaluating how a road charge program could address travel on and off public, private, and tribal roadways in California. The state offered incentives of up to $250 to participants in the six-month pilot.

Pilot Length

6 months: Apr – Sep '23

Reporting Method

Plug-in device

Reporting Frequency

Daily (automated)

Statement Frequency



No participant location or personally-identifiable data sent to Caltrans

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How It Worked

In the pilot, participants were given a device that plugged into their car to capture their miles traveled and whether the vehicle was traveling on public, private, or tribal lands in California (or out of state). Data was saved/stored securely through a third-party account manager, and vehicle location information was sanitized (deleted and non-recoverable from collection devices). Caltrans did not receive any location-specific data from pilot participants’ unique vehicle.

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Qualified participants were eligible to receive up to $250 in incentives for their time and completion of pilot milestones.

Incentive Milestones:*

  • Enrollment and closeout
  • Drive each month with active device plugged in
  • Review monthly statements
  • Complete two participant surveys

All milestones required completion to receive the full $250.

** Employees of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) or its subsidiary departments were not eligible to receive incentives.

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