Golden Gate Bridge examines variable tolls

May 8, 2008 7:08:04 PM PDT
How much more of a toll increase would it take to reduce traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge during rush hour?

The bridge district thinks has that figured out, but the federal government thinks it's not enough.

Right now it costs $5 cash to come south across the golden gate bridge, 4$ with FasTrak.

The Bridge District has a $1 increase for both in the works that will likely take effect as early as this September; that's to close a $91 million budget shortfall.

Now on top of that, the district is working on what's called "variable toll," or "congestion toll" pricing. It is a toll that would be in effect only when traffic is heaviest.

Those peak-use times are from 7-9 on weekday mornings and 4-6 weekday evenings, and from 3-7 pm on weekends and holidays.

During those times, the bridge is considering a $1 toll for cash, and either 50 cents or $1 for FasTrak users. That would bring the total toll during those times to $7 cash, and either 5.50 or $6 for FasTrack.

"It's a lot of money, there's no question," said Al Boro from Golden Gate Bridge District.

The idea comes from the federal government as a way to reduce congestion in San Francisco. The Bridge District agreed to collect the toll in order to save a $159 million federal grant for transportation projects all across San Francisco.

The grant requires a congestion toll on the Doyle Drive corridor, which includes everything from the Waldo Tunnel to Lombard Street.

"We're trying to work with the region to save the $159 million urban partnership grant that was why we're doping this. We think it's worthwhile and yes, we do get about $13 million for a garage structure in Larkspur, but the real drive is the $159 million and bulk of it goes to San Francisco," said Al Boro.

The district thought it had complete autonomy in decisions about the variable toll, but has just learned the federal transportation authorities intend to approve the plan first, and they think the variable toll needs to be higher.

"The congestion pricing think-tank folks back in Washington saw that a higher toll they felt was necessary," said Mary Currie from the Golden Gate Bridge District.

On Thursday, the District Finance Committee voted to send the variable toll options to the full board meeting Friday morning.

From there, it could go on to a public hearing in June, or be sidelined for more analysis.

To read more on the variable toll proposal, click on The Back Story.


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