Bay Area commuters may have to pay up to ease traffic congestion

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Cleaning up the Bay Area's traffic congestion is projected to cost billions of dollars.

Voters next year will be asked to raise state bridge tolls. Regional Measure 3 would follow two $1 bridge toll increases that voters approved in 1988 and in 2004. This time, however, the toll increase could be as much as $3 to be used to add more rail cars to the BART fleet, to help extend BART to downtown San Jose, and to improve bridge access and freeway interchanges.

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"We know people feel the pain," says Chris O'Connor, senior director of transportation at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. "All of us feel it every day. We do believe the public is going to be supportive of this. We've actually done two polls in 2017 which show there's strong support throughout the entire region."

And those polls indicated 56 percent would support a $3 bridge toll increase. Only a simple majority is required.

Before you head out to your car, be sure to check out the ABC7 traffic maps for real-time information to help you navigate through traffic jams.

Those would provide congestion relief in a relatively short time frame. However, there is recognition by agencies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, SPUR, the Bay Area Council and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group that relieving congestion is a nine-county regional issue. So the idea of a "mega measure" has been mentioned as a possibility to tackle transportation problems, which might need to raise as much as $100 billion. That's compared to the four to five billion dollars that Regional Measure 3 is projected to raise over a 25-year period.

"Right now they're just ideas," says O'Conor. "And so there would have to be a lot of work throughout the Bay Area with regional leaders to actually see what we would potentially do with something like that. But right now it's just sort of talk."

The pain of clogged roads is real. Congestion is estimated to have increased 84-percent over the past six years. The typical commuter spends the equivalent of three and a half work days driving freeways at 35 miles an hour or slower.
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