Talk of a third toll for bridge lingers

Two separate Golden Gate Bridge toll increases that could cost drivers $7 to cross into San Francisco are in the works — and another talked-about toll could boost the total cost to $8, warned transportation officials.

It currently costs cash-paying drivers $5 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and a planned $1 increase to the toll will likely go into effect in January 2009.

Additionally, a separate proposed toll increase would add $1 for drivers crossing during busy travel times. That fee, aimed at reducing traffic congestion, is expected to be implemented sometime between this fall and September 2009.

However, funding from neither of those tolls will benefit Doyle Drive, the southern approach to the bridge which has just a two rating out of 100 on the Federal Highway Administration’s structural safety index.

City officials are looking for $370 million to help rebuild the seismically unstable 72-year-old Doyle Drive, a project that is currently estimated to cost $1.01 billion.

Another $1 toll, on Doyle Drive — which would generate $160 million — could be the only way to make up the shortfall, according to Tilly Chang, the deputy planning director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

The total cost of a trip from the North Bay to San Francisco could be $8 for cash-paying drivers during peak times.

“We’re looking exhaustively at other options beside a toll,” Chang said. “But in the end of the day, a toll may be the only option, and it’s a reasonable option.”

North Bay politicians have decried the toll proposal, calling it a “Marin commuter tax” because it would only levy fares on southbound drivers. The bridge district’s board of directors shot down a proposal last year to implement a toll to help pay for Doyle Drive due to such concerns, but subsequently approved the congestion-based toll in order to help the region secure a $159 million grant that came on the condition that such a traffic-reducing measure was in place.

Without the support of the bridge district, San Francisco officials are having talks with state legislators about approving toll authority for Doyle Drive.

San Francisco Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who also sits on the bridge’s board of directors, said it was worth adding a toll on Doyle Drive for the rebuild effort, because if the span collapsed, “it would be an economic disaster.”

Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan, said a third toll would be too much.

“Ask the workers who live in the canal in San Rafael and work in San Bruno if they can afford an $8 toll,” McGlashan said.

wreisman@examiner.com

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