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Under SANDAG transit tax plan, bang for the buck won't be equal

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Posted at 4:46 PM, Oct 29, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — With SANDAG wanting to partially fund its $163 billion transit plan through tax hikes, there are concerns that not every area will get the same bang for its buck.

The agency is considering a plan to provide a bevy of new public transportation options, including a high-speed commuter rail, mobility hubs, and an expanded trolley line.

Funding mechanisms could include two half-cent sales tax hikes and a road usage fee that could charge people a per-mile rate. SANDAG is still formulating how that fee would work and is monitoring similar studies at the state level.

Still, while the taxes and fees would be charged regionwide, the vast majority of the new transit options would be built in the most populated areas of the county.

In Alpine, residents and business owners expressed concern about the cost distributed to them. SANDAG's plan calls for two $11 million interchange improvements to I-8 near Willows Road, but no other connection to the larger county.

In a letter to SANDAG, County Supervisor Joel Anderson, a SANDAG board member who represents East County, said the per-mile fee would unfairly impact many in his district, who have no alternative to driving.

"A significant number of my constituents also represent the 'toolbelt' workforce who need their vehicles to perform their work," Anderson said in Oct. 11 letter to SANDAG CEO Hasan Ikhrata.

Descanso resident David Martiz is one of those workers, commuting 120 miles daily around the county for his job renovating mobile homes. His pickup truck gets 13 miles per gallon, costing him $1,000 a week.

"I can't drive a little SUV, I can't drive a hybrid. I pull a dump trailer, I haul equipment. I haul flooring. I don't have a choice, I have to drive this," he said.

SANDAG says its plan includes many improvements to East County, but closer to the county core. Those include managed lanes along Interstate as east as Greenfield Drive in El Cajon, plus a new commuter rail line, double and triple tracking rail lines, grade separations for the Orange and Green Line trolleys, new Rapid transit lines, and investments into bus service.