Bay Area bridge tolls face more hikes

November 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It looks like commuting in the Bay Area is going to get a lot more expensive. Transportation officials want to raise tolls on state-owned bridges.

One proposal would have you paying up to $5 to cross every Bay Area bridge -- except the Golden Gate. There are several scenarios out there and all of them include some sort of toll hike. It is something that is outraging commuters.

At an informational meeting Tuesday night the public sounded off against several proposed toll hikes. They include: raising the car toll from its current $4 to $5, charging carpool lane users $3 -- right now they pay nothing -- and making truckers pay $23 or $35 to cross a bridge. They currently pay $11.25.

They also considered implementing something called "congestion pricing" -- only for the Bay Bridge. That would mean anyone using the bridge during peak hours, from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. would pay $6. Off-peak drivers would pay $4.

"It's not okay. Seems like there's a lot of people crossing the bridge, I don't know how they don't have enough money yet," says Dan Tanehill, a commuter.

Regardless, the Bay Area Toll Authority needs more money. The office in charge of all seven of the state-owned bridges in the Bay Area, wants commuters to make up a $160 million shortfall. The money would be used for seismic retrofit work on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges.

"We don't think this is the greatest time either. We know what's going on with the economy and it really isn't a choice that we want to say, 'Hey, we're raising your tolls for no reason,'" says Rod McMillan from the Bay Area Toll Authority.

The toll authority says the structural work is necessary and the recent eyebar failure on the Bay Bridge is proof that whatever needs to be done to protect the public, should be done.

"In just five years, the increase was 100 percent from $2 to $4 and the retrofitting money should already be there," says Frank Lee from the Organization For Justice And Equality.

Some commuters say the toll hike could put them out of business.

"I looked at my Fastrack bill the other day. Last month I went 255 crossings across the bridge. For me, this is a $30,000 to $60,000 a year increase. Which is hard to stomach right now," says Robert Ramorino with Roadstar Trucking.

The board vote will in February. If they vote in favor of the increases, they'll take effect in July.

The Golden Gate Bridge is not a part of this because it is not a state-owned bridge.


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