Pedestrians could pay fees to participate in Bay Bridge opening day walk

The party is set for the long-awaited opening of the rebuilt Bay Bridge, but you might have to pay to cross the new eastern span.

As way to celebrate completion of the $6 billion project, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which manages the span, had recommended spending $5.6 million in toll funds to allow at least 150,000 people to walk over the bridge for free during the Labor Day weekend. The money would pay for transportation, security and sanitary details.

That proposal has irked some lawmakers, including San Mateo state Sen. Jerry Hill, who introduced legislation this week attempting to block the move.

On Wednesday, the MTC’s governing body nearly voted to add a $5 fee for walkers to cross the span as a way to recoup some of the public money. However, any action on the fee could have been a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open-meeting law, so a decision on the matter was pushed back to next month. The commission did approve the plan to stage the opening-day celebration.

Commissioner Adrienne Tissier proposed the pedestrian access fee.

“It’s clear to me that the public does want to have a public event, but the concern is that a lot of money will be spent,” said Tissier. “We should be able to recoup our costs, and I think the public would have an appetite to pay for this.”

James Spering, a fellow commissioner, opposed the fee, saying taxpayers have already paid their fair share to rebuild the bridge. David Campos, a San Francisco supervisor who sits on the commission, said the fees could be prohibitive to low-income families.

Commissioner Scott Haggerty — who also sits on the board of the Bay Bridge Alliance, the private group helping to plan the event — said he would speak to his organization in the next month about the $5 fee.

While the commission seemed split on the fee, it did approve a measure to seek additional reimbursement from private sponsors. The Bay Bridge Alliance is slated to raise $3.5 million to help pay for a bike race, run, fireworks and other amenities. As a result of the MTC vote Wednesday, the commission will seek a 50-50 split on any private revenue raised in excess of $3.5 million.

If a fee is imposed on walkers, they won’t be the only ones paying to cross the span. Cyclists in the bike race will likely pay a $35 fee and runners competing in the half-marathon race could pay close to $100, according to MTC officials. Details for those races are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

The event is scheduled to last a day and half from Sept. 1 to 2.

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