Bay Area voters love taxes. That’s why lawmakers, business leaders and staffers at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission have been quietly meeting at the state Capitol in an effort to draw up a proposal for a toll increase of $2 to $3 on the Bay Area’s seven state-run bridges.
The goal is to have the measure in front of voters either in next year’s June primary election or on the November general election ballot.
Money from the toll increase — an estimated $125 million a year — would pay for a number of projects intended to ease traffic congestion. Those could include funding for 300 new BART cars, something that would allow the transit agency to run more trains; construction of more high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstates 80, 680 and 880, plus Highway 101; expanded ferry systems and more express buses; BART service to San Jose; and the growing cost of the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.
The increase could bring tolls on state-run spans to as much as $9 on the Bay Bridge, which has congestion pricing, and $8 on other bridges. The exact proposal hasn’t been set, but one idea under discussion is to raise tolls by $2 and set an automatic increase in future years that would be tied to inflation.
The only bridge exempt from the increase would be the Golden Gate, which is run by its own transit district. Tolls there top out at $7.75.
Two of the biggest players pushing for the toll increase are the Silicon Valley Leadership Group — whose members include such tech titans as Genentech, Facebook and Google —and the Bay Area Council, which represents some of the region’s biggest employers, including Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and UCSF.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle