Tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge would increase incrementally. (Courtesy photo)

Golden Gate Bridge tolls set to climb

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is poised to raise Golden Gate Bridge tolls as high as they can go.

Twelve board members — a majority of the bridge district’s Board of Directors — voted unanimously in a committee meeting Thursday morning to raise tolls as high as possible, aiming to invest big in their public transit system.

The district’s full 19-member Board of Directors will meet Friday morning, where it is likely that they will vote to grant final approval for the toll hike.

Southbound FasTrak drivers currently pay $7 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and pay-as-you-go drivers, essentially anyone not using FasTrak, pay $8.

But under the toll hike option that would bring the Golden Gate District the most funding, drivers using FasTrak could pay a toll of $8.75 by 2023, and drivers without Fastrak could pay $9.

If approved, tolls would rise incrementally starting July 1 this year.

Before the vote, Denis Mulligan, general manager of the bridge district, said it was imperative to raise funding for the district’s transit operations to remain consistent with the agency’s values.

While all toll hike choices allowed the district to meet its $74 million deficit, only “Option 5” would let it expand its transportation systems, the Golden Gate Transit buses and ferries, Mulligan said. That option would generate $15 million in funding annually on top of the amount needed to close the deficit, allowing the district to spend $10 million toward the $30 million purchase of a new ferry.

“The bridge district demonstrates its priorities by how it spends its money,” Mulligan told the board. “By that measure, the bridge district is a transit district.”

He also reminded the board that Golden Gate Transit’s buses and ferries represent 20 percent of all daily commutes from the North Bay to San Francisco and further south, “taking thousands of cars off the streets every day.” Without the toll increase, Mulligan warned the district would need to start cutting bus and ferry service annually.

“We have no magic,” he said.

His argument was seemingly persuasive. One after the other, board members — who represent counties across the North Bay and San Francisco — agreed to go with “Option 5,” to rake in as much funding as possible for transit.

“We’re going to have to purchase another ferry, it seems like, and that extra money is going to be critical,” said board director Dick Grosboll, who represents San Francisco.

Another board director representing San Francisco, Bert Hill, reasoned “there’s a lot more demand” for transit, and also signaled his support for the steeper toll hike.

Public comment received before the meeting included 40 people generally opposed to raising bridge tolls, nine in support and nine people who proposed alternate ideas to raising tolls, according to the district

At a February public meeting on bridge tolls hosted by the Golden Gate District in San Francisco, only four people showed up to weigh in.

The Golden Gate District Board of Directors sets tolls for the Golden Gate Bridge exclusively. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission sets the tolls for the Bay Bridge and six other Bay Area bridges.

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