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Four-cents-a-mile fee to drive San Diego streets? Some drivers want to hit the brakes

SANDAG has estimated this potential road charge could raise more than $34 billion through 2050 to help fund transit projects throughout San Diego

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Could San Diegans eventually be faced with a per-mile charge just to drive on San Diego roadways?

That proposal will be floated at a public board meeting hosted Friday by SANDAG, the region's top transportation planning agency

This fee would help pay for SANDAG's ambitious $160 billion long-term regional plan, which could also possibly include free public transit for everyone. 

This proposed road charge on the regional level would be in tandem with California's plans for a per-mile driver fee on a statewide level: a plan that SANDAG has estimated could raise more than $34 billion through 2050 to help fund transit projects throughout San Diego.

San Diegan Shyronda Wilson-Edwards believes that local leaders need to hit the brakes on the idea of imposing a per-mile fee on drivers.  

"Where are you supposed to get this money from?" she asked. "We can barely put gas in our car!"

Eyed as a way to generate revenue to eventually replace the gas tax, this road charge -  still in the proposal phase both in Sacramento and in San Diego - would run about two cents a mile at the state level.

That could possibly be matched at the county level which could mean a total of a four-cents-a-mile fee for San Diego drivers.

"Four cents a mile?" Shyronda added. "Come on... that's a lot of change!"

While it is not clear exactly how this mileage would be accurately tracked, charged, and then paid for, many drivers are not on board.

"In San Diego, we already pay a lot to live here, so four cents a mile is kind of ridiculous," said San Diegan Estevan Fausto, who commutes from South Bay to Clairemont every day.

"It doesn't sound like a lot at first, but for the people who drive a lot, those are the people who would be affected the most," Fausto told News 8. 

If this fee is eventually approved through legislation or a ballot measure, it most likely wouldn't take effect until 2030, the same time that the statewide fee would possibly kick in.

As part of SANDAG's plan, public transportation could eventually be free for everyone. This is an idea SANDAG is hoping to test out with San Diegans 18 and younger, although San Diego MTS and the North County Transit District still need to approve it. 

Some drivers are more on-board with this idea of universal free public transit.

"There are a lot of people who have trouble getting to and from places, going to the grocery store, picking up their kids from school, whatever the case may be," one commuter said. "That part I really wouldn't mind."

"We'll see," added another driver. "Hopefully they can do something better for all of us."

SANDAG's virtual public board meeting on this issue is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. For more information on how to participate, click here.