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Community weighs in on proposed four-cents-a-mile 'road charge' for San Diego drivers

SANDAG says it could help raise more than $34 billion through 2050 to help fund an ambitious array of public transit projects for generations to come

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Dozens of San Diegans packed a town hall meeting in La Mesa Thursday night, hoping to get more information on a possible four-cents-a-mile road charge. 

This fee could help pay for SANDAG's ambitious $163 billion long-range regional transportation plan, including the possibility of universally free public transit.

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.

While this proposal would still have to be approved in Sacramento and in San Diego, possibly through legislation or a ballot measure, many of the drivers attending Thursday's town hall said they want to hit the brakes.

"It's already a high cost of living here in California altogether," said attendee Rita Gonzalez. "And now they want to tax us more?"

"Why raise taxes on something that we do every day, that we depend on?" questioned another La Mesa resident. "For what?"

"They keep taking and taking," added Elaine Gonzalez. "I don't mind paying taxes, but I want to know where the money is going. How is it being spent?"

Reform California organized this town hall in La Mesa to help fight against this proposed road charge, which will be floated at SANDAG's public board meeting on Friday morning. 

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.

“What could be worse than San Diego County politicians stealing our road improvement funds originally promised for key highways like the I-5, I-15 and I-78? Those same politicians now want even more of our money by proposing a new “MILEAGE TAX” to be imposed on all the drivers – along with a massive sales tax hike at the same time.” said Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Reform California in a press release. 

However, SANDAG officials said that this charge, which is still in the proposal stage, would be one part of funding a revolutionary blueprint for San Diego's transit future.

"We're putting together a big picture transformational transportation system for the San Diego region that will serve generations," said Coleen Clementson, SANDAG's director of regional planning. "There's a $163 billion investment in our roadways, in public transit, in our neighborhoods, so that  they're safer to bike and walk."

Lawrence Frank, professor of urban studies and planning at UC San Diego, said that San Diegans should welcome this charge as a means of investing in public transit, which will mean less traffic on the roads in the long term.

"We are way behind," Frank told News 8. "They need to do this. We have no way that we can possibly meet the demand and not be stuck in traffic, breathing our fumes, if we don't build infrastructure."

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