Golden Gate Bridge district’s financial picture improving

The financial picture at the Golden Gate Bridge is improving, although by just how much is a little hard to decipher.

The bridge district, which oversees maintenance of the span along with operating a bus and ferry system, issues annual five-year financial projections to give a picture of its long-term health. Last year, the district projected a five-year shortfall — covering 2011 through 2016 — of $89 million.

With those gloomy numbers in hand, the district set upon implementing a series of cost-saving and revenue-generating initiatives, including adding a carpool toll, increasing transit fares, and eliminating staff positions. Under those initiatives, the district slashed its budget shortfall during that same time period to $65 million.

However, when the district looks ahead to a new five-year period — covering 2012 to 2017 — the gains look less impressive. Because of inflation and planned projects, the district’s five-year shortfall over that period of time is $87 million.

Confusing, yes, but this much is certain: the bridge district is making progress. It’s just difficult to track exactly how much progress it is making.

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