Golden Gate Bridge Board To Discuss Proposal To Raise Tolls To $7 This Friday

Plans for a possible toll increase on the Golden Gate Bridge that could come soon as next spring will be discussed at a board meeting this Friday.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District board of directors will be discussing and possibly voting on putting five toll-increase options up for public comment.

The earliest that one of those plans could be implemented would be April, district spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

The district is considering a toll increase in order to offset a five-year deficit projected at $142 million.

One option would be to raise an estimated $86 million over five years by bumping up the toll from $6 to $7 starting in April, and incrementally increasing the discounted $5 toll now paid by FasTrak users.

Under that proposal, the FasTrak price would increase by 75 cents in April, and then a year later would go up by another 25 cents, to $6.

Another option would bump up the toll for both FasTrak and non-FasTrak users by $1 starting in April. That proposal would bring in about $89 million over the next half-decade, according to the district.

The other three options call for staggered, incremental toll increases over the next five years. All three would result in an $8 toll by July 2018 for non-FasTrak users. FasTrak users would pay either $6.50 or $7 by 2018, depending on the proposal.

Those three proposals would bring in $93 million to $123 million in revenue over the next five years, district officials said.

At a news conference at the bridge’s toll plaza this morning, district general manager Dennis Mulligan called those options “more regular but modest increases.”

District staff is not recommending any one toll increase option over the others, and Mulligan noted that the board could even decide not to raise tolls at all for the time being.

District auditor-controller Joseph Wire said public opinion will be an important factor for the board in determining which toll increase plan to pursue.

The last toll increase came in September 2008, when the toll was bumped up from $5 to $6.

Currie said of the idea to increase tolls further, “No one likes it,” but explained that the district needs the revenue.

The money collected at the toll plaza goes toward the district’s bus and ferry system, and toward capital projects.

Roughly 9 million passengers ride the district’s ferries and buses each year, and about 40 million motorists cross the span in cars annually, Currie said.

The capital projects, which include seismic upgrades on the bridge, are projected to need about $363 million from toll revenue over the next 10 years, she said.

If the board votes Friday to start the process to increase tolls, public outreach meetings would be held as soon as Jan. 21, 22, and 23 in Marin, Sonoma and San Francisco counties.

Members of the public could also submit comments through email and on social media, Currie said.

“Not everyone has to show up physically” to have their voices heard, Currie said.

A formal public hearing would be held in early February, and the district board could vote to move forward with one of the proposals later that month.

Friday’s board meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the district office on the south side of the bridge.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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