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Road charge? SANDAG's per-mile driving fee faces opposition

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Posted at 3:56 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 14:40:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Dozens gathered Thursday to discuss San Diego Association of Government's (SANDAG) proposal to charge local drivers a 4 cents per mile tax. This fee would help pay for SANDAG's $160 billion transportation plan, which could improve roadways and possibly include free public transit for everyone.

Opponents of the plan who went to La Mesa Community Center for Thursday's Town Hall, believe it is not a smart use of tax dollars. Supporters of the plan said it's about enhancing San Diego's future.

RELATED: Freeway fees? SANDAG to consider regional plan for San Diego transportation

"More choices, faster fairer and cleaner systems, breathing better air, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing transportation options that get our residents to point A to point B in the quickest time possible," said CEO of SANDAG, Hassan Ikhrata.

However, in order for that to happen, the current San Diego gas tax will change from per gallon to per mile under the proposed "Vehicle Mileage Tax." That tax would make drivers pay an extra 2 cents per mile.

Ikhrata said 5,000 San Diego households are participating in a pilot program that replaced the gas tax with the proposed "Vehicle Mileage Tax."

"This is not about penalizing people or taxing people, but this is about re-imagining the future of transportation systems in San Diego, and I strongly believe San Diegans will see it tangible and pay for it like other regions did," said Ikhrata.

If approved, the proposal would take shape in 2035.

"It takes a while to build transportation projects and we are telling San Diegans we want to invest in the future for our kids and grandchildren, we want to breathe better air, reduce greenhouse emissions, and be better citizens," said Ikhrata.

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond believes the motive of the proposal only benefits certain people who live in certain areas, such as downtown San Diego.

"It's way too ambitious," Supervisor Desmond explains. "And I don't think San Diegans are going to be using transit as much as this new transit system is going to cost."

According to Desmond, only 3.5% of San Diego County residents use public transportation.

"So even if they triple that or multiply that by five times, you still have 85 to 90 percent of the people still going to be using cars and traffic," said Desmond. "And I think rather than trying to change behavior or tax people into changing behavior, I think we need to focus more on technology and new technologies and the future of transportation as opposed to buses and trains."

The SANDAG Board of Directors will hear the proposed regional plan on Friday and are hoping for final approval of the proposal on December 10.

In order for the plan to pass, SANDAG needs two-thirds of San Diego residents to vote in favor of the plan.

Local officials are encouraging San Diegans to take a look at the plan and give their feedback. The plan can be viewed online here.