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Commission Approves Toll Hike Package for Earthquake Safety


Above: The seismic retrofit of the Antioch Bridge is scheduled for completion in 2012.


UPDATE: January 27, 2010
The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) today took a major step toward ensuring seismic safety on all state-owned toll bridges in the Bay Area by adopting a package of toll hikes. The toll increases will go into effect July 1, 2010, on all seven of the region’s state-owned toll bridges: the Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond-San Rafael, San Mateo-Hayward and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges.

The new toll schedule is designed to generate an additional $165 million a year, much of which will go toward the estimated $750 million seismic retrofitting of the 27-year-old Dumbarton Bridge and the 31-year-old Antioch Bridge, the last two state spans in the region to undergo strengthening to bring them up to modern earthquake safety standards.

Four public hearings were held around the region in November and December 2009 to gather public input on the toll increase plan. Comments made at the hearings — and submitted via mail, e-mail or an online survey — helped shape the final toll schedule.

Beginning July 1, motorists in cars will in most cases pay $5 to cross the seven bridges, up from the current $4 rate. However, this rate will vary on the Bay Bridge according to the day of the week and the time of day — a concept known as congestion pricing. On the Bay Bridge, by far the region’s busiest span, tolls for autos will increase to $6 during weekday commute hours, dropping to $4 during off-peak hours on weekdays. (See details on the hours below.) On weekends, the auto toll on this bridge will be the same as elsewhere, $5. Officials expect the congestion pricing plan to ease commute-period congestion by diverting a good chunk of trips to the off-peak hours.

Also new at all of the state-owned toll bridges is a toll for carpools, which will be set at $2.50, or half the regular rate, during weekday peak periods of 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Previously carpools crossed the state-owned bridges free of charge during weekday commute hours. Motorcycles and inherently low-emission vehicles (ILEVs) with a DMV decal will also now pay a reduced toll during commute hours instead of passing for free. Carpools, motorcycles and ILEVs will not have to stop at toll booths, however. Tolls in these lanes will be collected exclusively through the FasTrak® electronic toll collection system.

In addition to the seismic retrofits on the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges, funds from the 2010 toll increase will be used to help offset the increased cost of debt financing resulting from the financial market turmoil that began in 2007, and to counter revenue declines caused by a decline in toll-paying traffic on the bridges over the past several years.

Truck tolls also are going up on state bridges in the region, and will be calculated by multiplying the two-axle base toll for cars by the number of axles in a truck. This translates to a $25 toll for a five-axle truck, up from the current rate of $11.25. Since most trucking companies operate under long-term contracts, the truck toll hikes will be phased in over three years, with the first increment delayed until July 1, 2011. Trucks will not be subject to congestion pricing.

The contract for the Antioch Bridge retrofit already has been advertised, and the retrofit project is scheduled for completion in 2012. Caltrans and BATA expect to advertise the Dumbarton Bridge retrofit contract in spring 2010, and to complete the project in 2013. For more about these projects, see the November/December issue of MTC's Transactions newsletter.

The new toll schedule does not affect tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge, which is owned and operated by a separate district.

BATA will evaluate the performance of congestion pricing on the Bay Bridge and other impacts of the new toll plan annually, and will provide a report to the BATA Oversight Committee.For more information, see the material from today's meeting.

Congestion Pricing Tolls on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

  • 2-axle vehicles between 12:01 a.m. and 5 a.m., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday: $4
  • 2-axle vehicles between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday: $6
  • 2-axle vehicles between 12:01 a.m. Saturday and midnight Sunday, regular toll: $5

UPDATE: January 13, 2010
The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) Oversight Committee at its meeting today voted to recommend to the full Bay Area Toll Authority a new toll schedule for the Bay Area's seven state-owned toll bridges. Under this schedule, which would take effect July 1, 2010, the base toll will rise to $5 on six of the state-owned bridges: the Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond-San Rafael, and San Mateo-Hayward bridges. On the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, a congestion pricing plan would be introduced, with the auto toll remaining at $4 during weekday non-peak hours and rising to $6 during weekday peak periods (5 am to 10 am and 3 pm to 7 pm), and to $5 all day on weekends.

The BATA Oversight Commitee also approved a staff proposal to establish a discounted $2.50 toll for carpools to cross in the toll direction during weekday peak periods instead of allowing them to pass for free as is now the case. This toll also would take effect on July 1, 2010. Carpools will not be required to stop at a toll booth, as tolls will be collected electronically via FasTrak toll tags. Drivers will be required to open a FasTrak account in order to receive the discount. The new plan also calls for tolls to increase to $5 per axle for trucks and other vehicles with three or more axles. This increase will take effect no earlier than July 1, 2011, and the new multi-axle vehicle toll schedule will be fully effective by July 1, 2012. The full Bay Area Toll Authority will consider the BATA Oversight Committee's recommendations at its January 27, 2010 meeting.

For times and locations of meetings, see the Meetings page. For more information, call the MTC/BATA Public Information Office at 510.817.5757, or e-mail info@mtc.ca.gov.


Background

December 9, 2009
The proposed toll hike package would raise an additional $160 million annually, largely to finance the estimated $750 million cost of necessary seismic retrofit projects on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges. Other factors behind the toll hike include a slow but steady decline in toll-paying traffic on the state-owned bridges during each of the past five years, increasing bridge operational expenses and rising construction debt due in part to the upheaval in the municipal bond markets over the past two years.

Currently the toll on state bridges for autos and vans is $4, while carpools pass for free during commute hours. Trucks and trailers pay from $6 to $13.50, depending on the number of axles.

The toll-increase recommendation presented today would raise the base toll rate for two-axle vehicles (cars and light trucks) to $5, and would implement a discounted toll for carpools of $2.50 (or half the new base toll rate) effective July 1, 2010. Trucks and trailers would pay the two-axle base toll rate per each axle in their vehicle ($15 for three axles, $20 for four axles, and so forth.) Under the current staff proposal, the rate increase for trucks would be effective July 1, 2011, following a one-year grace period to accommodate longer-duration trucking contracts already in place. At today’s meeting, commissioners asked staff to look into alternate toll scenarios for trucks.

Also included in today’s recommendation is the advent of congestion pricing on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The two-axle toll would be higher ($6) during weekday peak travel times and lower ($4) during non-peak periods, and would match other Bay Area bridges at $5 on weekends. Preliminary analysis shows that such pricing could reduce morning peak delay on the Bay Bridge by 15 to 30 percent.

The staff proposal takes into account substantial public input. Originally, three toll packages were under consideration, all generating roughly an additional $160 million a year. (See the original proposals.) Four public hearings were held in November and December around the Bay Area, and the public was encouraged to provide additional comments through letters, e-mails and an online survey. To date, BATA has received over 1,000 comments on the proposed toll increase. (Listen to audio from the Dec. 9, 2009, meeting via RealAudio.)