$3 carpool toll proposed for Golden Gate Bridge

Higher tolls would follow similar increases on other Bay Area bridges

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is proposing a $3 toll for carpools, which currently cross the span for free during commute hours.

Carpool vehicles on the Golden Gate Bridge are defined as two-axle vehicles with three or more passengers. Motorcycles and buses also qualify. Such vehicles are not charged a toll from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, district spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

Clean-air vehicles with white California DMV Clean Air decals, which also cross toll-free during commute hours, would also have pay the $3 toll under the proposal, Currie said.

Cars with yellow California DMV Clean Air decals do not currently receive a carpool discount and will continue to be treated as regular vehicles and pay $6, Currie said.

The new tolls would go into effect July 1.

Carpool vehicles would be required to use FasTrak to pay the $3 toll, Currie said. Carpools would still have to stop in a staffed lane at the toll plaza for manual verification.

The district is also proposing to increase the toll for vehicles with three or more axles. Those vehicles currently pay $2.50 per axle with FasTrak or $3 per axle with cash.

Under the proposal, the toll for vehicles with three or more axles using Fastrak would be $5 per axle with a maximum toll of $35, Currie said. Those paying cash would be charged $6 per axle with a maximum of $42.

That toll increase would be phased in, half in July 2011 and half in July 2012.

The proposed toll increases for multi-axle vehicles are consistent with the rates charged on state-owned bridges, Currie said.

District staff are concerned that without an increase, drivers of multi-axle vehicles would take the Golden Gate Bridge to avoid the higher tolls on state-owned bridges, Currie said.

That could lead to increased congestion on the bridge, which would be particularly troublesome during the reconstruction of Doyle Drive, Currie said.

The carpool vehicle toll is expected to generate $1.3 million in additional toll revenue in fiscal year 2010-11.

The multi-axle vehicle toll rate change would generate $600,000 in additional revenue in fiscal year 2011-12 and $1.2 million in additional revenue in fiscal year 2012-13, Currie said.

The district's Finance Committee will discuss the proposed toll changes Thursday morning and the district's board of directors will consider the proposal Friday if the Finance Committee moves it forward, Currie said.

There will be an informational open house on the proposed toll April 7 in San Rafael and a public hearing at the Bridge Toll Plaza May 14, Currie said. The district's full board of directors will vote on the toll increase May 28.

The proposed toll increases were among 33 initiatives discussed in October for addressing a projected five-year, $133 million budget shortfall, Currie said.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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