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Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza replacement project moves forward

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The Golden Gate Bridge’s electronic toll system is out of date, bridge district staff say. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
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The effort to replace the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza with a sleeker, taller “toll gantry” is set to move forward today.

On Thursday, a committee of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District‘s Board of Directors approved Oakland-based AECOM as its engineering consultant for its new toll plaza project, bringing the project’s cost to $6.9 million.

Final approval to fund AECOM as its engineering consultant — which would design the new toll gantry — still requires a full vote of the Board of Directors, set for today.

The construction of a new toll system will one day prompt the bridge district to tear down its old toll plaza, recognizable for its iconic, oversized, red art deco clock.

Still, “at this time we do not have a timeline for removing the toll booths,” said Ewa Bauer-Furbush, the bridge’s chief engineer. The toll booth-removal will be assessed as part of the future Toll Plaza Modernization Project, she said, a project which has not yet started.

The change in the toll plaza, which features out-of-date technology, was prompted by an effort by the state of California, which is now determining new regulations for what radio frequencies “electronic toll collection” agencies in the state must use, according to CalTrans. Those regulations are expected to be determined by the end of 2018.

The regulations would help customers using multiple toll plazas, the district said previously.

The bridge’s electronic tolling system “is out of date, has reached the end of its useful life, and is no longer supported by the vendor,” according to a bridge district staff report.

On March 24, the Board of Directors awarded the toll technology contract to Kapsch TrafficCom IVHS, Inc. However, the board also determined they needed experts in the design of toll gantries to perform “geotechnical investigations” for installation of the foundation, and replacement of the roadways, develop conceptual architecture designs for the toll gantry, and develop a “detail design” for the new gantry.

Notably, the old toll plaza was designed for human toll-takers to collect cash from drivers. Early design sketches of the new toll gantry show a metal structure standing far taller than the existing toll plaza, a design that omits individual structures between each lane.

That’s good news for the bridge district, as the combination of old-style toll plaza structures between each lane, coupled with FasTrak-enabled cars speeding through the automatic system, has resulted in numerous crashes along the old toll plaza.

As the San Francisco Examiner reported last August, in 2015 there were at least 84 collisions with the old toll plaza, at a cost of $7,000 to $10,000 for replacement and repair.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original post.

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