SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In the hopes of improving the efficiency of the Bay Area’s clogged freeway system, officials heard plans Wednesday to replace cash tolls with an electronic pay system at the region’s seven state-owned bridges.
The Bay Area Toll Authority heard two plans proposed by The Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The first would replace toll collectors with cameras that would snap a vehicle’s license plate number and automatically bill the vehicle’s owner.
The second option would remove the toll plaza structure all together and replace it with an open-road FasTrak tolling system like that partially used on the Benicia Bridge.
Whatever choice is selected it would impact travel on the Bay Bridge, the San Mateo Bridge, the Dumbarton Bridge, the Carquinez Bridge, Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Antioch Bridge and the Benicia Bridge.
“Obviously, we want to improve the efficiency of the freeway system all around the region and the toll plazas are an obvious bottleneck,” said John Goodwin, a Toll Authority spokesman.
MTC officials said either option would reduce commute times by 7 minutes.
The pricetag for each option is steep. The first would cost an estimated $23 million while the FasTrak-like system would cost $55 million.
“Implementation is challenging,” said MTC Deputy Executive Director Andrew Fremier. “We do think there’s a couple ways to attack it if the authority is interested in pursuing the work.”
MTC data shows with the advent of the FasTrak system, there has been a steady decrease in the use of cash tolls. According to the agency, 70 percent of the drivers crossing the bridges use FasTrak. By 2020, the percent was projected to go to 80 percent.
There will be further study of both options, authorities said, with implementation being years away. A decision on which option to pursue may be made at the beginning of next year.