Congestion fare zooming ahead

In addition to a proposed $1 toll increase, fares for drivers crossing the Golden Gate Bridge during peak traffic times would receive an additional boost under a separate motion before bridge officials today.

The resolution, passed unanimously by the bridge’s finance subcommittee Thursday, would meet federal guidelines for some form of congestion-related tolling on Golden Gate Bridge or Doyle Drive — a mandate required by the federal government for Bay Area officials to retain $158.7 million awarded to the region by the Department of Transportation in August 2007, according to Golden Gate Bridge General Manager Celia Kupersmith.

At Thursday’s meeting, Golden Gate Bridge officials remained adamant that any revenue generated from the congestion pricing go toward improving the district’s public transit needs — not toward improvements for Doyle Drive.

“The resolution’s language clearly states that we will dictate how to use the revenue,” said Al Boro, mayor of San Rafael and member of the bridge’s finance committee. “I think the consensus here is that the best way to deal with congestion is to direct the funding into increased services for our ferries and buses.”

The district doesn’t have any preliminary ideas about how much tolls will increase during peak times, or when those peak times will take place, bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

“We’re going to begin a very technical analysis of the situation,” said Currie. “We should present our first findings to the public within 30 to 45 days.”

The resolution requires that a public hearing is held in June, and that the pricing increase is implemented no earlier than September and no later than September 2009.

Tilly Chang, deputy planning director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority applauded the finance committee’s decision to approve congestion pricing.

“It’s a much-needed show of regional solidarity,” Chang said.

Chang and her colleagues at the SFCTA had been advocating for a $1 or $2 toll on Doyle Drive to help make up the $370 million still needed for the rehab project, but North Bay politicians decried the move as a “Marin commuter tax.”

Separate from the congestion-pricing resolution, Golden Gate Bridge officials are still seeking another increase that would raise FasTrak prices from $4 to $5 and cash tolls from $5 to $6, a funding boost they hope will cover a $91 million projected revenue shortfall over the next five years.

wreisman@examiner.com

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