Elsewhere: Toll authority weighs higher bridge fees SFGate

The possibility of increasing tolls by $1 on all seven state-owned bridges in the Bay Area next July will be discussed at a transportation committee meeting on Wednesday.

Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee said the increase, which would push tolls from $4 up to $5, is needed to help finance seismic retrofit work on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges, offset higher borrowing costs and address a five-year decline in toll-paying traffic on the bridges.
However, committee officials stressed that a final decision on toll increases probably won’t be made until January and will be subject to future public hearings.

Among the options under consideration will be an increase of $1 to the current $4 base toll for two-axle vehicles, increased tolls on a per-axle basis for multi-axle trucks and for vehicles towing trailers.

In a controversial move, the committee also is considering ending its policy of letting carpoolers cross the region’s bridges for free and instead charging carpoolers a portion of the base toll.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said last December at a meeting of the Bay Area Toll Authority, which administers tolls on the state-owned bridges, that a toll increase will help pay for $950 million in seismic safety upgrades on the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges.

Heminger said a three-year study concluded that the two bridges need to be retrofitted even though they are two of the newest spans in the Bay Area.

The Dumbarton Bridge, which is 1.6 miles long, was built in 1984 to replace a structure that was erected in 1927. It goes between the Newark and Fremont area in Alameda County and the East Palo Alto and Menlo Park area in San Mateo County, carrying an average of 60,000 vehicles a day.

The Antioch Bridge, which is 1.8 miles long, was built in 1978 to replace the original span, which was built in 1928. It travels over the San Joaquin River and connects Antioch in Contra Costa County to state Highway 160 in unincorporated Sacramento County.
The bridge carries an average of 15,000 vehicles a day.

In addition to the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges, the state-owned spans that would be affected by a toll increase are the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, and the Carquinez Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge wouldn’t be affected by the proposed toll increase because it’s overseen separately and falls under the jurisdiction of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

The committee’s hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter at 101 8th St. in Oakland.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • Scott

    It’s taken the MTC this long to realize that funding bridge work with tolls and reducing the number of cars on the road (therefore crossing the bridges) via carpooling are conflicting goals?

    Carpooling is an important component of our quality-of-life effort. By reducing the number of cars on the road, the benefits are felt by other drivers (due to the less-crowded roads), the environment (by being more fuel-efficient per capita), and city dwellers (by having fewer cars to contend with).

    People who carpool usually wind up making a bit of a sacrifice when they do so, most likely in the amount of time they spend in the car. I think it’s a small price to pay to allow them to cross the bridges toll-free, as a thank-you gesture.

    Hybrid vehicles’ freedom to cross the bridges toll-free will soon expire, so that will mean thousands of cars being required to pay tolls once again. The MTC should consider that before requiring carpoolers to pay up (even a portion of the toll) as well.

    As for the proposed toll increase? It’s a dollar a day for most people; prices always go up. It’s not great, but necessary. I’m paying more for BART and Muni now, so it only makes sense that drivers who won’t or can’t carpool should have to pay a little more, too.

  • sfboogie

    I used to pay $10/day to take BART to work. Unlike the bridges, there’s no “free pass” going home. And I certainly never got a completely free ride by commuting with hundreds of others. Why should commuters who drive across bridges get a free ride for sharing their car with only 1 or 2 other people? Crossing any bridge should cost at least as much as it would cost to take public transit r/t (or start charging both ways). If we want to reduce cars on the road then it needs to become far less desirable- financially. Go ahead and offer an incentive for carpools, but it shouldn’t be so great that it encourages it over PT.