With the Golden Gate Bridge moving to all-electronic tolling by the end of March, bridge officials today began handing out informational guides to drivers paying cash at the toll plaza to notify them of the change.
The bridge, which will be the first in California to move to a cashless toll system at an as-yet-unspecified date next month, also launched a new section of its website at www.goldengate.org/tolls that outlines the various ways drivers can pay for a trip across the bridge.
“We’re trying to get our local market engaged that a big change is coming in about six weeks,” bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said.
Drivers who use FasTrak electronic tolling–about 70 percent of the southbound motorists who currently cross the bridge–will not have to make any changes and will pay $5 tolls, a dollar less than other methods. Northbound trips on the bridge are free.
For people who do not want to use FasTrak, tolls will be assessed based on license plate numbers. Drivers can either set up a license plate account tied to a credit card or make a one-time payment up to 30 days before a trip across the bridge.
Once the toll plaza stops collecting cash, drivers will also be able to pay within 48 hours after crossing the bridge, either online, by phone or at cash payment locations that have yet to be determined.
If the toll is not paid within that time frame, an invoice will be mailed to the address of the vehicle’s owner requiring payment within 21 days or else fines will be levied. Renewal of the car’s registration will be put on hold until the fine is paid, Currie said.
Currie said bridge workers began testing the electronic tolls on Jan. 30 and have been working out kinks with the system before it goes fully live next month.
“We’re building the aircraft while we’re flying,” she said.
Bridge officials decided in January 2011 to make the change to all-electronic tolling.
Nearly half of the 28 full-time toll collectors are being transitioned to other positions in the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District while the others will receive severance packages once the tolls go cashless, Currie said.
She said the move was made to save money–an estimated $16 million over the next eight years–as well as to improve traffic on the bridge.
A large LED sign will be placed at the toll plaza in the coming weeks telling drivers to not stop after the move to all-electronic tolls.
More information about the changes, as well as how to sign up for the various accounts, is available on the bridge’s website at www.goldengate.org/tolls.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News