OAKLAND - Staff members of a key transportation agency said at a meeting today that they are seeking $31 million to pay for a new security system for the Bay Bridge, most of it for the new eastern span that's scheduled to open in September.

Bay Area Toll Authority staff member Peter Lee told the agency's Oversight Committee that Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol are seeking $26.3 million for a comprehensive security system to monitor the 2.2-mile-long eastern span.

An additional $5.1 million is being requested for a similar upgrade for the Bay Bridge's western span, Lee said.

He said the total for the eastern span includes $15.7 million for installing 175 cameras, including video, infrared and thermal imaging cameras, $3 million for a control system, $3.2 million for a telecommunication system and $4.4 million in contingency costs.

The funding request seemed to surprise members of the Oversight Committee, who previously had allotted only $8 million for the eastern span.

Bill Dodd, a Napa County supervisor who chairs the Bay Area Toll Authority, said he didn't understand why toll payers would have to pay the entire cost, saying, "It's not clear why Caltrans and the CHP can't" pay for part of it.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said the new eastern span needs a state-of-the-art security system because it's a potential terrorist target, just like the Golden Gate Bridge, which already has an extensive security program in place.

Heminger said he also had questions when he first learned about the need to spend a large sum to protect the Bay Bridge but his concerns were satisfied when he had a private meeting at which CHP officials revealed their security concerns.

He suggested that the committee set up a similar meeting with the CHP so that committee members can also be briefed on the subject.

The Oversight Committee forwarded the matter to the Bay Area Toll Authority's full board for final approval next month, assuming the committee members' concerns are resolved.