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Toll Bridge Traffic Nears 90 Percent of Pre-COVID Levels

Bay Area drivers got a big jump on today's official start of California’s post-pandemic era by returning in large numbers this spring to the region’s toll bridges and other freeways. Average weekday traffic in the toll-paying direction at the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges rose by more than 7% from early March to early June, representing some 34,000 additional trips each weekday — or enough to fill a freeway lane operating at 35 m.p.h. for about 17 hours straight. As a consequence, congestion-related delays have returned as a recurring daily headache in many of the Bay Area’s traditional traffic hot spots.

Overall, daily toll bridge traffic roughly has doubled from the COVID-era lows registered in early April 2020 and now averages 85% of the levels recorded in mid-June of 2019. Traffic across the Antioch Bridge, the least-traveled of the Bay Area's state-owned toll bridges, already has returned to pre-pandemic levels and daily traffic volumes now routinely approach or even top 90% of pre-COVID numbers at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez and Richmond-San Rafael bridges.

The San Mateo-Hayward and Dumbarton bridges, by contrast, continue to register the largest declines in daily traffic on a percentage basis. While westbound traffic across both spans connecting Alameda and San Mateo counties has risen by nearly a third over the past year, the number of weekday crossings at the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge is still about 25% below June 2019 levels and weekday volumes at the Dumbarton Bridge average close to 35% below those seen two years ago.

Here’s a closer look at daily traffic volumes (toll direction only) for each of the Bay Area’s seven state-owned toll bridges on the second Wednesday of June in each year from 2019 through 2021:

Bridge 6/12/2019 6/10/2020 % Change 6/9/2021 % Change
Antioch 9,379 8,108 -14 9,405 +16
Benicia-Martinez 62,818 47,204 -25 56,017 +19
Carquinez 65,988 54,821 -17 60,174 +10
Dumbarton 41,096 22,640 -45 26,062 +15
Richmond-San Rafael 43,087 31,732 -26 37,813 +19
S.F.-Oakland Bay 135,110 105,312 -22 120,062 +14
San Mateo-Hayward 60,527 34,549 -43 45,730 +32

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