Congestion tolls for Golden Gate Bridge?

February 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Last year the federal government said San Francisco could have $158 million dollars for transportation projects if it put congestion management tolling in place. Now the deadline is approaching for that toll plan and it looks like the Golden Gate Bridge will be where you'll have to pay.

The aging, seismically dangerous approach to the Golden Gate Bridge is rated as one of the most dangerous bridges in the state. The replacement will cost more than a billion dollars.

A $158 million dollar federal grant required San Francisco put a toll in place at peak times to reduce traffic. That toll on Doyle Drive would then help pay for the replacement.

The Golden Gate Bridge had the authority to collect the toll but didn't want the job. It's already got a $1 toll increase in the works.

But with the March 31 grant deadline looming, the Bridge District now says it might collect the congestion toll after all, but the money would not go to the new Doyle Drive.

"All of those funds collected, if we do move forward, will stay within our organization. They would be used for our bus and ferry system just as we use the tolls now to subsidize the bus and ferry system as a congestion management tool," says Mary Currie of the Golden Gate Bridge District.

"That's not clear yet. That's a rub," says San Francisco supervisor Jake McGoldrick.

McGoldrick, who's on the Bridge District Board, says there's still a chance the bridge, and the drivers who use it, could chip in for the replacement.

"They say why should we pay? Well we have to pay somewhere to get it. There's no mamma from heaven, no money on trees no seeds for money trees. It's got to come from somewhere," says McGoldrick.

North Bay residents and politicians call the Doyle toll a commuter tax that unfairly targets them.

"It's not Marin versus them, that's the most perverse argument I've ever heard. It's all of us in this together. The economic lifeblood of our region is attached to the viability and success of people moving from point A to point B on Golden Gate and Doyle Drive," says San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

No one knows just how much the new congestion toll might be. The board will meet again on the issue in mid-March.