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North and East County leaders team up to oppose transportation plan

Jim Desmond
Kitty Alvarado
Supervisor Jim Desmond held a news conference backed by North and East County leaders to voice their opposition to the controversial regional transportation plan.

"Tomorrow SANDAG’S board of directors will vote on the most expensive transportation plan in human history," said Jim Desmond during a news conference he spearheaded to oppose the San Diego Association of Governments', or SANDAG, regional transportation plan.

While it's not the most expensive in human history, at $163 billion over 30 years, it’s $33 billion more than the last plan.

"And they plan on paying for it by taxing people out of their cars and into busses and trains," Desmond said.

The plan includes a 2 cent per mile road tax to help fund public transportation. Desmond said that’s unfair to people in his North County district and the rural East County.

"It’s naïve to think that the communities that depend on roads in North and East County, Fallbrook, Alpine, Santee, Valley Center, Julian, could be effectively served by mass transit yet every one of those people in those communities are going to be paying for the tax," said Desmond.

RELATED: SANDAG transportation plan forces debate over costs of climate action

Last week three Democratic members of the SANDAG board came out in opposition to that part of the plan.

"If you look at buses and trolleys they’re completely empty, if you want to be safe and have good social distancing from COVID sit on a bus or a trolley because you’ll be alone there," said El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells.

Wells says a plan that focuses on expanding public transit won’t serve his community, and will benefit very few because only three percent of San Diegans use public transit.

"Because San Diego is not set up to be a mass transit city it’s a very, very large, almost five 5,000 square miles, it’s a very, very large area, it’s just not practical for people that live in my area to take transit to the grocery store, to their jobs, to kids soccer games," he said.

SANDAG Regional Plan faces criticism from local leaders

Oceanside City Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez says people in his district ultimately won’t be able to abandon their cars.

"And these are hardworking blue collar families that will be neglected because these roadways that they depend on will not be widened and they’re going to attempt to force these families into busses and into trains and that is not realistic for North County," said Rodriguez.

He also said turning existing lanes into toll lanes makes a bad idea even worse. "It’s going to really create unneeded burdens on these families that are just trying to live and go to work and achieve their American dream," Rodriguez said.

These leaders said they want a more realistic plan that uses technology to reduce emissions, is more inclusive and less expensive.

"If we want to stop the state and the federal government and the local government from taxing us into oblivion we’ve got to step up and say, ‘No, this can’t happen!’" said Wells.