Motorists could find themselves paying another buck to cross the Golden Gate Bridge by April.
Facing a projected five-year, $142 million deficit, the Golden Gate Bridge District board will meet Friday to begin discussing ways to raise cash. A toll increase is the likely method.
The seismic retrofit of the span, south tower painting and the partial loss of revenue from a downsized local bus contract with Marin County have fueled the district's deficit, bridge officials said.
"Tolls are the financial workhorse for the bridge and its transit services and it's time to look at this again," said Mary Currie, bridge district spokeswoman.
A preliminary plan calls for several toll increase options to be released next month, followed by public outreach in January and a public hearing in early February before the board votes on the issue later that month. If the board approves the increase, it could be implemented by early April.
But the approach still needs approval from the board and nothing has been finalized.
It would take a toll increase of about $1 to reduce the projected deficit to a manageable level, according to the district's staff report.
In 2009, the district developed a 33-point plan to keep it in the black. Among the points was a $1 toll increase listed for July 2013, although that has not occurred. Another scenario called for incremental toll increases beginning in 2014 to match annual 5 percent transit fare hikes.
With all electronic tolls now on the bridge, the cost to cross could be raised by pennies if desired without fear of a traffic backup because no change would have to be made.
Tolls were last raised by $1 in 2008. Fastrak users now pay $5 to cross the span, while "pay by plate" drivers pay $6. Cash is no longer accepted on the span as toll-takers had their jobs eliminated in March in a cost cutting measure.
"It's clear this is how the bridge has been operated for years," said Judy Arnold, bridge board member and Marin County supervisor, referring to toll increases. "We can't get one-time grants to pay for what needs to be done."
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