Federal funds lend a hand to S.F.'s ailing Doyle Drive

To help fight gridlock, the Bay Area has received nearly $158 million in federal funds — some of which will be used to create a toll system on Doyle Drive, the roadway that connects San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Bay Area was one of five metropolitan areas nationwide chosen for the new Urban Partnership grant program, which aims to reduce heavy traffic using approaches including tolling, public transit, tele-working and congestion pricing.

Doyle Drive is more than 70 years old and has the state’s worst rating in terms of seismic stability, according to Jose Luis Moscovich, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The cost to rebuild the one-and-a-half-mile stretch is estimated at $810 million.

Of the $158 million awarded to the Bay Area, $35 million is to help defray the project’s $190 million funding shortfall. Another $12 million is for electronic tolling equipment for Doyle Drive, the revenue from which would be used to fill in the funding gap for the replacement project.

According to federal officials, San Francisco has until June 30, 2009, to put its plan in place. Moscovich said the timeline on the toll is much tighter.

“One of the conditions of the grant is we need to get implementation of a toll within the next nine months,” he said, noting that the fee would be collected electronically through overhead sensors, not at a separate tollbooth. “We’re not going to wait until Doyle Drive is reconstructed to put a toll on it.”

All Urban Partner grant proposals were required to include some form of congestion pricing — which penalizes drivers for using key thoroughfares during peak driving hours.

New York City received $354 million for its congestion-pricing proposal, which includes charging traffic fees to drive into downtown Manhattan.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he was not the “strongest advocate” for congestion pricing, but the realities of increased congestion required that the idea be studied. He said a toll on Doyle Drive was not yet a done deal.

“It’s controversial, it needs to be studied and considered,” Newsom said.

The remainder of the grant funding will be used to support San Francisco’s SFgo system, a real-time traffic-management system that includes traffic signal coordination at 500 key intersections; new parking payment systems to manage congestion in downtown and Civic Center; expansion of the Bay Area’s 511 transportation information system; a program to link FasTrak and TransLink; and improved parking for Golden Gate Ferry users.

beslinger@examiner.com


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