Members of the Assembly Transportation Committee approved the deal between Schwarzenegger and Democratic Senate leader Don Perata of Oakland without opposition.
The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Sen. Tom Tor-lakson, D-Antioch, is expected to go before the Assembly Appropriations Committee today and perhaps even the full Assembly later in the day or on Thursday, said Perata spokeswoman Alicia Dlugosh.
The urgency measure, which already passed the Senate, requires a two-thirds vote of the lower house. The transportation committee created a companion bill containing what Dlugosh described as minor amendments, which has to go back to the Senate for approval.
"Like the hundreds of thousands of drivers and passengers who cross the state's Bay Bridge every day, I have long wanted this issue to get resolved so we get the safest bridge in the shortest time in the fairest manner," Perata said.
Tuesday's hearing in the Assembly was viewed as a major test of whether lawmakers concerned about Southern California transportation needs would go along with the deal, which lays most of the costs on Bay Area motorists.
Under the deal, Bay Area motorists will pay 83 percent of the cost of completing the eastern span with a single tower. The cost would be met with a $1 toll hike in 2007 and by refinancing existing bridge tolls.
Supporters of the pact said it was essential to get it approved this week before lawmakers take a monthlong summer recess. The delay would have added at least $20 million to the cost of the $6 billion-plus bridge.
With Schwarzenegger's signature on the bill, the state Department of Transportation can advertise new bids on the tower within 10 days and award a contract within six months.
In May 2004, Caltrans opened a lone bid on the same design that doubled state engineers' cost estimates and sent the project into chaos.
In August of last year, Schwarzenegger and Perata reached a conceptual agreement to proceed with the tower. But the deal fell through.
After 10 months of negotiations over the financing and design of the bridge, Perata and Schwarzenegger recently agreed on a new pact.
Under the new arrangement, the state still pays for $300 million in demolition costs and contributes $330 million toward the increased bridge cost. The money comes from Caltrans savings, through a series of promised efficiency measures, plus a variety of other state transportation funds.
The Bay Area would end up covering all the costs if the overrun-plagued bridge skyrocketed again. Since the Bay Area picked a unique, hard-to-build tower in 1998, the estimated cost has risen from $1.3 billion to $6.3 billion.