SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District’s board of directors Friday discussed plans that could possibly raise tolls as high as $8 by 2018 to make up a projected budget shortfall.
The toll increase proposals follow the release last month of a report projecting a $142 million budget deficit by 2018, bridge district officials said.
The board of directors did not make a decision at its meeting in San Francisco on Friday on whether to increase the tolls, but reviewed options that would raise between $93 and $123 million over the next five years.
The board also voted to hold public outreach meetings in January in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties.
Toll increases are expected to come to a vote in February 2014 and could take effect by April, bridge officials said.
FasTrak users should expect to continue to receive a discount. Proposals reviewed by the board Friday called for Fastrak tolls to rise to $6.50 or $7.
Those paying by other means should expect tolls to go up by as much as $2 over the next five years to $8, according to bridge district staff.
The projected budget shortfall is driven in part by the need to support Golden Gate Transit buses and ferries, and in part by planned capital projects requiring $363 million in toll funds over the next 10-year period, district spokeswoman Mary Currie said.
While there was little public comment Friday, Currie said toll increases are never popular.
“People don’t like toll increases,” Currie said. “I don’t blame them.”
Currie noted that the district has taken numerous steps to improve its financial position in recent years, including automated toll collection, increased transit fares, elimination of some bus routes and cutbacks in administrative costs.
The district on Friday also approved a new parking fee for its Larkspur ferry terminal that will bring in an estimated $400,000 per year, Currie said.
Tiburon resident Susan Deluxe criticized the board for what she called “perpetual toll increases” to finance public transit at the expense of commuters.
Deluxe said it was time for the district, which manages both the bridge and public transit services, to be reorganized and taken over by state and local authorities.
Caltrans manages the Bay Area’s other major bridges, which have tolls ranging from $4 to $6.
“There’s no other bridge in the world that supports public transit and expects motorists to provide all the funding,” Deluxe said.
The district last increased tolls in September 2008, when they rose from $5 to $6.
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