Bay Area Toll Authority to Hold Public Hearings on Proposed Toll Hike for Earthquake Safety
OAKLAND, CA — The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) will host the first of three public hearings at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter, 101 8th Street in Oakland, to receive public testimony on three options for a proposed toll increase on the seven state-owned Bay Area toll bridges.
Additional public hearings are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, in the City Council Chambers of San Mateo City Hall, 330 West 20th Avenue, San Mateo, and 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, in the Wisteria Room of the Concord Senior Center (located in John F. Baldwin Park), 2727 Parkside Circle, Concord. The Concord and San Mateo hearings will feature a short open house (from 6:30 to 7 p.m.) and a staff presentation (beginning at 7 p.m.) prior to taking public testimony.
The increase, which, if approved, likely would take effect July 1, 2010, is needed to raise an additional $160 million in annual revenues. The chief reason the additional revenue is needed is to finance the estimated $750 million cost of necessary seismic retrofit projects on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges. Other factors include a slow but steady decline in toll-paying traffic on the state-owned bridges during each of the past five years, increasing operational expenses, and rising debt (due in part to the upheaval in the municipal bonds markets over the past two years). The proposed toll increase would be in effect on the Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond-San Rafael, San Mateo-Hayward and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges. (The toll proposal does not affect the Golden Gate Bridge, which is owned and operated by an independent authority.)
The three options under consideration would all raise the needed $160 million annually. For Options 1 and 2, detailed below, BATA would raise the base toll on automobiles and motorcycles by $1 (to $5), and in so doing raise the first $100 million of new annual revenues. The remaining funds would be generated by a combination of increasing the per-axle toll for trucks and/or introducing a toll for carpools, which would be collected electronically via FasTrak® toll tags.
Also under consideration (Option 3) is the introduction of peak-hour congestion pricing on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Preliminary analysis shows that such pricing could reduce morning peak delay on the Bay Bridge by 15 to 30 percent.
- Option 1: $5 toll for two-axle vehicles (autos and motorcycles); $3 for carpools during peak periods (Monday through Friday); and $6 per each additional axle for trucks. Under this option, carpools would be charged for the seismic retrofit portion of toll charges. Carpools would be required to obtain a FasTrak® toll tag to qualify for the reduced rate, and FasTrak® equipment would be required in all carpool lanes.
- Option 2: $5 toll for two-axle vehicles (autos and motorcycles) and $10 per each additional axle. There would be no charge for carpools during peak periods (Monday through Friday).
- Option 3: Same as Option 1 for all bridges except the Bay Bridge. Congestion pricing would be introduced on the Bay Bridge; charges would be $6 for two-axle vehicles during peak periods (Monday through Friday) and $4 for autos and motorcycles during off-peak hours (Monday through Friday), with a $5 charge for two-axle vehicles on weekends. A $6 charge for each additional axle, at all times and on all days, would be in effect with this option, along with a $3 charge for carpools during peak periods (Monday through Friday).
Written comments on the proposed toll increase will be accepted until 4 p.m., Dec. 21, 2009; they may be submitted to the BATA Public Information office at 101 8th Street, Oakland, CA, 94607-4700, faxed to BATA at (510) 817-5848, or sent via e-mail to email@example.com. After receipt and review of public comments, the BATA Oversight Committee is scheduled to consider the adoption of a revised toll schedule at its meeting on Jan. 13, 2010. Final action by the full BATA is slated for Jan. 27, 2010.
BATA, which is directed by the same policy board as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), administers tolls on the region’s seven state-owned bridges. State legislation in 1997 authorized BATA to administer the base $1 toll on the Bay Area state-owned toll bridges. BATA’s responsibilities were expanded by August 2005 legislation to include administration of all toll revenue and joint oversight of the toll bridge construction program with Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission. MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
Randy Rentschler: (415) 778-6780
John Goodwin: (415) 778-5262