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KPBS Midday Edition

SANDAG board nixes 'road usage charge' from transportation plan

airport cars and people.jpg
Roland Lizarondo
People and cars at the pickup area for arriving passengers at San Diego International Airport on September 2, 2022.

Board members of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) last week voted to abandon plans to charge drivers a local fee for every mile they drive.

The "road usage charge" became one of the most contentious elements of SANDAG's 2021 Regional Transportation Plan. It was meant to serve two purposes: raise revenue for infrastructure projects and discourage driving so the region can meet strict state-mandated climate goals.

Republicans latched onto the fee as a campaign tool, saying it would burden drivers with costs they can't afford. The three main leaders of the SANDAG board — all Democrats — later came out against the fee as well.

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Environmental groups defended the fee as a necessary tool to replace dwindling gas tax revenues and cut back on car travel — the largest local source of greenhouse gas emissions. State regulators already warned SANDAG that removing the road user charge could jeopardize the agency's eligibility for state funding.

KPBS Midday Edition spoke with The San Diego Union-Tribune environment reporter Joshua Emerson-Smith about SANDAG's decision.

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