Overuse of San Gabriel Canyon has prompted the county Board of Supervisors to push for a state law that would allow tolls to be imposed on the two roads leading into the recreation area.
Assembly Bill 904, introduced by Assemblyman William Lancaster (R-Covina), would authorize the state to impose fees for travel on California 39 and the county to charge tolls on Glendora Mountain Road. The bill would allow the state and the county to set their own rates, but neither county officials nor a spokesman for Lancaster's office would speculate what the tolls might be.
The Assembly Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Wednesday. If the Legislature approves the measure and it is signed into law by the governor, it will take effect immediately.
Federal Law May Preclude It
But Howard Posner, legislative representative for the state Department of Transportation, said it may not be feasible to impose tolls on California 39. He said the highway has been maintained with federal highway funds and that federal law generally precludes tolls in such cases.
Bill Silverling, the county's legislative representative, said that heavy use of the canyon area, especially in the summer, requires more traffic control and law enforcement personnel than the county can afford.
Bill Nunes, an aide to Lancaster, said about 4 million people a year visit the canyon area, which is under federal jurisdiction. The county provides police services for the canyon, however.
A county report submitted in support of the Lancaster bill said the canyon has been plagued in recent years by littering, drunk drivers, vandalism, illegal shooting and other law enforcement problems.
Silverling said the bill would allow public agencies to use toll fees to pay for law enforcement, road maintenance and sanitation facilities.
Posner said that if the state did impose tolls on California 39, it would have to receive federal permission to do so, and would have to repay those federal funds used for the highway over the years. No estimate of the amount of federal funds used on th highway was available.
Posner said Caltrans has not taken a position on the Lancaster bill. He said state highway officials are studying alternatives to road tolls, but said it would be premature to elaborate.
Tom Hibbard, an aide to Supervisor Pete Schabarum, said the county is also looking at alternatives. He said county officials are trying to persuade federal officials to impose user fees in the canyon similar to those in effect at state parks.
Silverling said the county, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, already charges off-road vehicle users in the canyon. The fees, instituted in March, of $2 for each vehicle that enters the area under its own power and $1 for each vehicle carried by truck or trailer, are expected to generate $150,000 a year to be spent on safety measures and the environment.