MTC considers raising Bay Area tolls

October 14, 2009 11:44:25 AM PDT
Bay Area transportation planners discussed a proposal Wednesday that could raise Bay Area bridge tolls and charge carpoolers.

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The proposal under consideration would apply to everything except the Golden Gate Bridge. Seven state-owned Bay Area bridges would be impacted. Toll fees would increase from $4 to $5 and for the first time, carpoolers would be charged.

The Toll Authority says they have found themselves in a jam and have nowhere else to turn. Officials say the organization needs the money first and foremost to retrofit the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges

Andy Fremier with the Toll Authority explained during Wednesday's public hearing that, "Both bridges are supposed to be retrofit by about 2013, under our current estimates."

The Toll Authority says it is caught in a double-whammy with fewer toll-paying customers and money costing more to borrow.

"Our ability to raise money in the debt markets has been materially affected by what's happening on Wall Street," Fremier said. "So, when you put the two together, lower traffic volume, lower revenue and harder to raise money, we need to have a higher toll in order to borrow the money we need to complete the seismic safety program."

Bill van Meter of Oakland says, "It's going to hurt the working class people that have to commute by automobile."

Another part of the revenue-enhancing proposal is to charge carpoolers at least a part of the toll for using that special lane. But, it is a lane that has never cost anything before.

Fremier says it is a fairness issue. "If we don't charge the carpools it means we have to charge someone else more. So, that's the pair-off that we have to deal with and it's clearly going to be an item of discussion," he said.

One man told ABC7, "I don't think that's fair. They shouldn't charge for the carpools. If you've got more people in your vehicle you should just be able to go through free."

Wednesday's meeting was just the first of many meetings on the topic. Public attendance is welcome and encouraged at the next meeting, set for Wednesday November 4th, at 1:30 p.m. at the Metro Center on 8th Street in Oakland.

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