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Gov. Brown signs bill approving ballot measure to hike bridge tolls

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Traffic flows across the Bay Bridge toward The City. (Cindy Chew/2009 S.F. Examiner)
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Bay Area bridge tolls may soon rise as much as $3.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 595 Tuesday, authored by state Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), which would authorize a region-wide vote on the toll hike to raise an estimated $4.2 billion for local transportation projects.

Though the ballot measure would hike tolls on seven Bay Area bridges if approved in 2018, the Golden Gate Bridge would not be affected because its Board of Directors sets tolls independently.

The Bay Bridge and other bridges may see a hike of up to $3, if approved by Bay Area voters. In San Francisco, those transportation dollars may help fund myriad projects requested by local officials: BART’s core capacity study, the expansion of BART’s fleet, creating a new ferry landing at Mission Bay, expanding Muni’s fleet and facilities, the Transbay Transit Center’s second phase and pedestrian and bicycle projects throughout the Bay Area.

Perhaps most notably, the toll hikes may fund a study to conceptualize the much-desired second Transbay Tube, according to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and BART agenda documents.

If a second Transbay Tube is one day built, BART could become a 24-hour system, or if Caltrain were to use the tracks, it could expand its service into the East Bay.

“The investments in this regional measure will also help provide important jobs, improve the quality of life and reduce emissions,” Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said in a statement. “Numerous provisions in the bill, including a new Inspector General for BART, will ensure that these projects deliver their promised benefits.”

The Bay Area Council, a public advocacy organization on behalf of local big-businesses interests, also hailed the measure’s approval.

“With the governor’s action today, we’re one step closer to taking a big leap forward in addressing the region’s transportation and traffic crisis,” Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, said in a statement.
“With the funding included in this plan,” he continued, “we can make important investments to expand mass transit like BART, Caltrain and ferries, ease congestion on traffic-clogged freeways and address the number one frustration plaguing Bay Area commuters.”

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