Major San Diego County transit projects in works with California gas tax funds

SAN DIEGO (CNS/KGTV) - Caltrans, San Diego Association of Governments members and other elected officials -- including Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Sen. Ben Hueso, and Assemblyman Todd Gloria -- Friday highlighted upcoming San Diego County transit projects to be funded by Senate Bill 1.

SB 1 went into effect in November. It raised gas and diesel taxes by 12 cents and 20 cents per gallon, respectively. Vehicle registration fees also increased $25 to $175, depending on the value of the vehicle.

Democrats who backed the increase said they believed it was the best way to handle a $137 billion backlog of road repairs. The increase is expected to raise more than $5 billion for transportation costs annually.

RELATED: Gas tax could pay to repave hundreds of county roads

In San Diego, Caltrans says the fund will benefit 312 projects to fill potholes, 18 traffic congestion relief projects, and 19 projects to improve local road and bridge safety. 

Christine Kehoe, a member of the state's Transportation Commission, said the projects would improve Interstate 5, the border, and doubletracking for trains. The commission just awarded the region $312 million in gas tax revenue for transportation projects. 

"This is not a one-year plan, this is multi-year plan," she said. 

The projects include extending carpool lanes on Interstate 5 in North County, a new truck route at the Otay Mesa border, and a variety of improvements for cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians on Escondido's Citracado Parkway. 
The pushback, however, by politicians and residents has been swift. Republicans are advocating for a repeal of the law, and an initiative has gained enough signatures to head to the November ballot.

"We could fix all of our roads if we simply allocated 100 percent of gas tax revenues to roads, but the politicians will never do that because this has never been about fixing roads, but rather getting more of your money," said a statement from former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is helping lead the repeal effort.

But Caltrans says repealing the tax would make the roads even worse. 

"I'll tell you something else, if we continue to delay maintaining our system it’s just going to keep costing us more," Caltrans Director Laurie Bergman said at the conference. 

RELATED: Effort to place California gas-tax repeal on ballot gets enough signatures

In the meantime, about $860 million has already been committed to San Diego, including a $700 million project led by Caltrans and SANDAG to reduce congestion along the North Coast Corridor of Interstate 5.

The project is expected to add lanes to I-5 and includes projects to the San Elijo Lagoon.

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