SANDAG Board of Directors approves future road use tax per kilometer to fund public transport projects

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An entrance to route 125 near the border. Courtesy of SANDAG

The board of directors of the Association of Governments of San Diego on Friday approved a tax on “highway user fees” as part of several updates to the transit agency’s regional plan, but its timeline has been refined to more closely reflect a similar state effort.

The four cents per mile tax – and two half cents in regional sales taxes slated for 2022 and 2028 – is being seen as a way to help fund SANDAG’s long-term regional plan, an ambitious $ 160 billion proposal. dollars over 30 years that could include toll-free transit and a 200-mile, $ 43 billion regional rail network.

According to SANDAG, the schedule of tax increases “has been refined to adjust the schedule of the road use charge to more closely align with state planning efforts, ensure sufficient time to study and pilot potential strategies and include a diversity of funding sources that allows flexibility going forward. “

“The 2021 Regional Plan is an unprecedented investment in the future of the San Diego region,” SANDAG President and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in a statement. “We have listened to the community and are delivering a modernized transport system through the 2021 Regional Plan that works for everyone, with affordable options that get us to the people and places we want to go in a safer and cleaner way. “

SANDAG, the regional transportation planning agency for San Diego County, received more than 1,500 comments on the 2021 regional plan project. Some were positive, but many were critical of the agency’s proposed tax increases.

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said the proposal was to “force everyone into carts and buses” by getting people out of their cars.

“This proposal should never see the light of day,” Desmond said. “The people of San Diegan already pay some of the highest prices to drive in the country. From current gasoline taxes to a vehicle registration tax, the people of San Diegan feel the impact, in their wallets, every day. “

“Adding another tax, to finance public transport, is a slap in the face,” he said. “I will not support any new taxes or charges on the people of San Diego until the promised projects are completed.”

It is still unclear how the tax would be calculated and collected.

California has tested a pricing of around 2 cents per mile as part of pilot programs, but has encountered several issues. The state has had difficulty with how to report usage per mile and whether miles should count outside of the state.

It is not known how SANDAG will get around this problem, but the agency claims to want to wait until some transit projects are completed.

The proposed mileage tax is intended to complement and eventually replace gasoline taxes, which have fallen dramatically as gasoline consumption has increased and ownership of hybrid and electric cars has increased exponentially these last years.

According to a 2020 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy think tank, between 1993 and 2020, average energy efficiency improved by around 26%. This translates into drivers averaging an additional 75 miles per tank.

“These 75 extra miles of driving are causing wear and tear on the country’s roads, without requiring the payment of gasoline tax to cover the cost,” the report revealed.

SANDAG estimated the plan could raise more than $ 34 billion by 2050, but the agency’s chief economist Ray Major said final numbers would change once the scope was reduced to implementation of the proposal in 2030.

Other regional changes include regional improvements to bicycle and pedestrian safety, habitat conservation plans and a “commitment to study free public transport for all by 2030”.

The final 2021 regional plan and the environmental impact report are expected to be published on November 30. After its publication, the SANDAG board is expected to vote on the adoption of the plan and the EIR certification at its meeting on December 10.

To learn more about SANDAG’s regional plan, visit sdforward.com.







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