Voters to decide whether to hike almost all Bay Area bridge tolls

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Would you be willing to pay more to cross Bay Area bridges if it means better roads, and public transit? That's exactly what voters will get to decide in June, now that Transportation leaders have decide to put a toll increase on the June ballot.

The Bay Area Toll Authority was unanimous: let voters decide whether tolls on all seven state-owned bridges should go up, significantly, to raise billions for transportation improvements. Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler spelled it out.

"$4.5 billion of BART, and highway and buses and ferries, funded with a toll increase of three dollars that would take place over seven years," said Randy Rentschler with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

If voters approve, tolls would go up by a dollar next year, again in 2022, and once more in 2025.

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$8 at peak periods on most bridges and $9 on the Bay Bridge.

Will voters go for it? The Bay Area Council polled voters in all nine Bay Area counties and found that sixty percent of them would vote in favor of the toll hike.

"Some people won't want to do it, but we think most people will want to do it," according to John Grubb of the Bay Area Council.

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But Frankie Mansfield said she saw a potential silver lining -- "hopefully it will encourage people to carpool."

Transportation officials say the money will pay for more express lanes on local freeways, extending Caltrain into downtown San Francisco, and BART to San Jose -- 35 projects in all. But critics say the toll hikes will hit the poor and people of color hardest.

Transit advocate David Schonbrunn promises to campaign against it: "they don't achieve results for the money that they take in, but their number one answer to all problems is give us more money."

The toll increase would not include the Golden Gate Bridge.
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