The plan is a part of the administration's Transportation Opportunities Act, an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.
Obama's proposal seems to follow up on that idea in section 2218 of the draft bill. That section would create, within the Federal Highway Administration, a Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office. It would be tasked with creating a "study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems."
The administration seems to be aware of the need to prepare the public for what would likely be a controversial change to the way highway funds are collected. For example, the office is called on to serve a public-relations function, as the draft says it should "increase public awareness regarding the need for an alternative funding source for surface transportation programs and provide information on possible approaches."
The draft bill says the "study framework" for the project and a public awareness communications plan should be established within two years of creating the office, and that field tests should begin within four years.
The office would be required to consider four factors in field trials: the capability of states to enforce payment, the reliability of technology, administrative costs and "user acceptance." The draft does not specify where field trials should begin.
The new office would be funded a total of $300 million through fiscal 2017 for the project.