The possibility of increasing tolls by $1 on all seven state-owned bridges in the Bay Area next July and an end to a free ride for carpoolers will be discussed at a transportation committee meeting today.
Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee said the increase, which would push tolls from $4 up to $5, is needed to help finance seismic retrofit work on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges, offset higher borrowing costs and address a five-year decline in toll-paying traffic on the bridges.
However, committee officials stressed that a final decision on toll increases probably won't be made until January and will be subject to future public hearings.
Among the options under consideration will be an increase of $1 to the current $4 base toll for two-axle vehicles, increased tolls on a per-axle basis for multi-axle trucks and for vehicles towing trailers.
In a controversial move, the committee also is considering ending its policy of letting carpoolers cross the region's bridges for free and instead charging carpoolers a portion of the base toll.
Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said last December at a meeting of the Bay Area Toll Authority, which administers tolls on the state-owned bridges, that a toll increase will help pay for $950 million in seismic safety upgrades on the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges.
Heminger said a three-year study concluded that the two bridges need to be retrofitted even though they are two of the newest spans in the Bay Area.
In addition to the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges, the state-owned spans that would be affected by a toll increase are the Bay Bridge, the San Mateo Bridge, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, and the Carquinez Bridge.
The committee's hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. today at the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter at 101 8th St. in Oakland.