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Bridge toll hikes heading to 2018 ballot

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If implemented, the toll hikes could yield more than $4 billion in transit reform

The western span of the Bay Bridge, as seen from Treasure Island. Photo by Anthony Massie

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last week that could raise tolls on almost all Bay Area bridges by as much as three dollars. But it will be up to 2018 voters to decide whether or not the fare hike becomes a reality.

In September, California lawmakers passed SB 595, San Jose Sen. Jim Beall’s proposal that would hike Bay Area bridge tolls and put the money toward a variety of traffic reduction programs.

“Traffic congestion on the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges degrades the bay area’s quality of life, impairs its economy, and shows no signs of abating,” reads Beall’s bill.

Despite criticism from fellow lawmakers—like Concord’s Tim Grayson, who accused Beall of trying to squeeze money out of bridge commuters to benefit other groups (among the propositions for SB 595 money: funding a BART extension to San Jose)—the bill passed the state senate by a 27-13 vote, previously clearing the assembly at 43-31. Gov. Brown signed the bill October 10.

The final step: taking it to the voting booth. A 2018 vote will decide if locals want to bite the bullet on bridge crossings for the sake of relieving other transit issues, or whether they want to keep the daily toll amount as-is.

Photo by Daniel Berson

Note that this would not affect the Golden Gate Bridge one way or the other; California doesn’t own the famous span.

Also of note, it’s not set in stone how much tolls would go up. According to the text of the bill:

The bill would require the [Bay Area Toll Authority] to select the amount of the proposed increase, not to exceed $3, to be placed on the ballot for voter approval. If approved by the voters, the bill would authorize BATA, beginning 6 months after the election approving the toll increase, to phase in the toll increase over a period of time and to adjust the toll increase for inflation after the toll increase is phased in completely.

If implemented, the toll hikes could yield more than $4 billion for transit reforms.