SAN DIEGO – SANDAG will hold a pivotal meeting Friday on its 2021 Regional Plan including discussion of a controversial “road usage charge,” a proposal that would charge county residents for each mile they drive.
“This is for a transportation system that nobody uses,” El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said.
Under the $163 billion proposal, a four-cent-per-mile tax — and two half-cent regional sales taxes were proposed for 2022 and 2028. But since the San Diego Association of Governments plan was released, the road usage charge has been met with mixed reactions, including from three SANDAG board members who said last week they want to move forward with the regional transportation plan without the tax.
Leaders from across the county Thursday held one last push for “no new road tax” ahead of SANDAG’s meeting where the regional plan is up for consideration.
“These aggressive taxes are going to hurt the working poor the most who can’t afford to live next to where they work,” San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said.
Some members of the SANDAG board of directors, including Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, also oppose the idea.
“What we’ll be doing is adopting a regional plan that’s visionary and historic and ambitious,” Blakespear said. “I expect that after that we will give direction to remove the vehicle mile travel fee from consideration so that the plan would be built without that.”
The regional plan would involve building more transit and increased bike and pedestrian paths to encourage less travel by car.
“If you have two drivers driving an average of 12,000 miles each, this could cost more than $1,000 per family,” said John Franklin, a city councilmember from Vista.
Critics of the regional plan point out an approved tax hike in 2004 included some SANDAG projects that were never completed and ultimately urge SANDAG to get rid of the road usage charge.
“It is highly speculative, we don’t really know how it would operate and it’s the kind of thing that needs to be more fully vetted and we also need a plan that people support,” Blakespear said.
The SANDAG meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday. It is virtual, but open to the public.