Bay Area bridge managers on Wednesday proposed raising car tolls from $4 to $5 on six bridges, charge different tolls at different times on the Bay Bridge and end the free ride for carpoolers on all seven state-operated bridges in the region.
To introduce Bay Area motorists to congestion pricing, staff members of the Bay Area Toll Authority recommended raising the toll to $6 on the Bay Bridge during peak commute periods on weekdays, while leaving the toll at $4 during other weekday hours. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Bay Bridge toll would be $5 all day.
The higher toll at busier times is aimed at reducing traffic jams by giving commuters an incentive to travel outside peak use hours — 5 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, said Rod McMillan, the toll authority's director of bridge oversight and operations.
In a toll authority online poll, 60 percent of 783 people said they favor congestion pricing for Bay Bridge tolls.
In the same poll, 63 percent opposed the toll authority staff recommendation to start making carpoolers and motorcyclists pay tolls during rush hour on the seven bridges. The charge would be $2.50, and it would be paid through the FasTrak toll collection system.
Managers at the bridge agency said they believe commuters still will form carpools because they will continue to save time by getting rush-hour access to carpool lanes that get them through toll booths faster.
The toll increases for cars would go into effect July 1 if they are approved Jan. 27 by the toll authority, a panel of county supervisors and city members from the region. Besides the Bay Bridge, the increase would apply to the Richmond-San Rafael, Zampa, Benicia, Antioch, Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges.
Truckers would be hit with steeper toll increases than cars, but the increase for trucks would be postponed for a year, until July 1, 2011.
The toll for a three-axle truck would increase from $6 to $15, and the toll for a five-axle truck would increase from $11.25 to $25.
McMillan said the authority proposed postponing the truck toll increase in response to complaints that many truckers have long-term contracts to haul freight, and cannot easily pass higher tolls on to their customers.
This toll increase is expected to be adequate to cover the cost of building the new east span of the Bay Bridge. Even if the project runs over its $6.3 billion budget, the extra cost probably won't be enough to trigger another toll increase, said Steve Heminger, the toll authority executive director.
The agency needs $160 million more in toll money annually for seismic retrofits on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges, and to offset higher borrowing costs and declining bridge use and toll collections.
Reach Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Read the Capricious Commuter blog at www.ibabuzz.com/transportation.
Three-axle truck, from $6 to $15.
Four-axle truck from $8.25 to $20.
Five-axle truck from 11.25 to $25.
Seven-axle truck from $13.50 to $35.