Tolls could rise to as much as $6 on 7 Bay Area bridges, by another $1 on the Golden Gate

Bridge authorities say increases needed to pay for repairs, make up for declining toll-paying traffic

Bridge authorities are considering toll increases of $1 on the Golden Gate Bridge and by as much as $2 on the seven other Bay Area bridges, including the Bay Bridge and the San Mateo and Dumbarton bridges.

The $1 toll increase planned for the Golden Gate Bridge, which under operates separately under the authority of the Highway and Transportation District, wouldn't take effect until 2013, according to current plans. It would be followed in 2014 by another 5 percent increase.

For the seven other bridges, staff members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee said the proposed increases of $1 to $2 are needed to raise an additional $160 million in annual revenues to help finance the estimated $750 million cost of seismic retrofit projects on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges.

The extra money would also offset higher borrowing costs caused by the upheaval in the bond markets the past two years and address a five-year decline in toll-paying traffic on the bridges.

The Bay Area Toll Authority, which administers tolls on the region's state-owned bridges, is considering three proposals, two of which would impose charges on carpoolers for the first time since the 1970s.

Under Option 1, tolls would increase from $4 to $5 for two-axle vehicles such as cars and motorcycles and there would be a $6 charge for each additional axle for trucks.

There also would be a $3 charge for carpools during peak periods on weekdays, which would represent the seismic retrofit portion of toll charges. Carpools would be required to get a FasTrak toll tag to qualify for the reduced rate and FasTrak equipment would be required in all carpool lanes.

Under Option 2, there would be a $5 toll for cars and motorcycles and a charge of $10 per each additional axle for trucks. But there would be no charge for carpools during peak periods.

Option 3 would be the same as Option 1 for all bridges except the Bay Bridge, where congestion pricing would be introduced.

The proposed charge for cars and motorcycles would be $6 during peak weekday periods and $4 during off-peak periods during the week as well as a $5 charge on weekends.

There would be a $6 charge for each additional axle for trucks at all times. And there also would be a $3 charge for carpools during peak periods.

But the proposals don't seem to be generating much controversy as only five people spoke at a public hearing on the subject Wednesday. The committee is expected to vote on the proposal in January. If a toll hike is approved, it's anticipated that it will take effect next July 1.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District's board of directors has unanimously approved a plan to eliminate a five-year $132 million budget deficit that could grow to $400 million in 10 years.

The projected shortfall is due to lower toll and transit revenue, decreased state funding, and the district's $75 million contribution over 10 years for the reconstruction of Doyle Drive.

The financial plan, divided into three phases, contains 33 separate expenditure reductions or revenue increases over 10 years.

It includes a $1 toll hike on the Golden Gate Bridge starting in 2013 that would raise $36 million over five years and $126 million over 10 years.

There also would be annual smaller toll increases of perhaps 5 percent starting in 2014 that would raise $140 million over 10 years.

The plan anticipates 69 full-time positions, or 8.3 percent of the district's 830 positions, would be eliminated within four years. That would save $147 million over five years and $533 million over 10 years.

Other proposals in the plan call for charging pedestrians and bicyclists for using the bridge once seismic projects that impact the bridge's sidewalks are completed in about four years. The amount of revenue for the sidewalk access fee was not projected in the plan.

The proposals in the plan are not "set in concrete," district spokeswoman Mary Currie said. They will come before the board for review, and there will be public hearings on the proposals.

"This is a road map, or a menu," Currie said.

The plan also assumes more automation of current tasks, including toll collection, to reduce operating costs, salary freezes, and staff furloughs.

It also calls for raising revenue through more concessions at the bridge, possible partnerships and grants.

District Director Celia Kupersmith called the proposal, drafted by a nine-member advisory committee, "a strategic plan."

Director Joanne Sanders said the deficit reduction blueprint was "an impressive document.

"Some items will have some arm-wrestling, but it doesn't seem to be a significant takeaway from our customers," Sanders said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Amador Estates
on Nov 7, 2009 at 9:26 am

I'm not paying an extra $2 to drive across a bridge that they can't even keep in one piece. Use the increased revenues from BART, but don't increase the fees to cross the bridges. LEARN TO BE EFFICIENT like the rest of us. Trim the fat before you start excising everyone else's internal organs

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