One step closer to bridge toll hike

March 13, 2008 6:59:21 PM PDT
Commuters are one step closer to having to pay a congestion toll on the Golden Gate Bridge. That means a higher toll to cross at peak times. It's a decision that saves a federal grant of nearly $160 million for Bay Area transportation projects.

The proposed congestion management toll comes in addition to the $1 flat toll increase already in the works for the Golden Gate Bridge later this year.

The Golden Gate Bridge District Finance Committee unanimously agreed that the district should commit to collect a congestion toll in order to secure $158.7 million from the federal government.

That grant will be used for a variety of Bay Area transportation related projects, including more than $12 million for parking improvements at the district's Larkspur ferry terminal and $36 million for the Doyle Drive replacement.

The federal grant requires a congestion toll be put in place along the Golden Gate Bridge-Doyle Drive corridor by September of next year, but the deadline for someone agreeing to collect that toll is at the end of this month.

The bridge district is the only agency in the Bay Area with the authority to collect a toll there. It did not want the job, but changed its mind in order to save the federal grant.

"It is great news that the bridge can do something classy like this toat least get the urgent monkey off our back," said Charles McGlashen with the Golden Gate Bridge District.

The full board still has to vote Friday morning, but it is expected to follow the committee's recommendation.

A congestion toll is designed to reduce traffic during peak travel times and push people to use the road off-peak or use public transportation.

The bridge district is doing a study to find out when the worst congestion happens and how much of a toll might be effective. The district has until September 2009 to decide on details, including how the toll revenue will be used.

One thing's clear, it does not want to use it to help pay for the Doyle Drive replacement. That $1.2 billion project is still $370 million short.

"I think we've made it very clear that we are totally against a toll on Doyle Drive and I still feel that way," said Mike Kerns with the Golden Gate Bridge District.

The city and state have already chipped in some funding for the Doyle Drive replacement. In mid-April, a group of Bay Area transportation representatives led by Mayor Newsom, are headed to Washington to ask the federal government for more money. Doyle Drive has to be replaced because it is not safe in an earthquake.