Golden Gate Bridge district to consider toll increases to help offset budget shortfalls 

click to enlarge Automatic electronic tolling at the Golden Gate Bridge gives authorities more flexibility in raising tolls. The toll could be raised by 45 to 55 cents, instead of raising tolls by a whole dollar, a bridge district spokeswoman reported. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Automatic electronic tolling at the Golden Gate Bridge gives authorities more flexibility in raising tolls. The toll could be raised by 45 to 55 cents, instead of raising tolls by a whole dollar, a bridge district spokeswoman reported.

Faced with a $29 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, the Golden Gate Bridge district is considering toll increases on the span.

In the midst of a significant financial crisis in 2009, the bridge district approved a long-term plan that called for toll hikes on the span every five years. The last time tolls were increased on the bridge was in September 2008, when cash fares rose from $5 to $6 and FasTrak costs went from $4 to $5.

The district’s deficit for its operating budget — which includes day-to-day oversight of its transit fleet and bridge upkeep — was $13.2 million for the upcoming fiscal year, a tally that is larger than normal because of the large gap between toll increases. The shortfall in the capital budget — which covers major infrastructure projects like seismic retrofits — was $16 million, accounting for the $29 million total. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

The bridge district plans on using revenue from its various reserve funds to cover the budget shortfall, but it will soon begin discussions for planning the next toll increase to maintain financial sustainability, said spokeswoman Mary Currie.

The new all-electronic tolling system on the span allows for more flexibility when it comes to toll increases, Currie said.
“The next increase could be by 45 cents to 55 cents,”  Currie said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dollar like in the past.”
The bridge district’s board of directors will discuss the budget and the potential for future toll increases at its finance committee meeting Thursday. A timeline for the next toll hike should emerge in the following months, Currie said.

Dave Snyder, a member of the  board of directors, said an annual inflationary toll increase should be considered. The district recently approved similar annual fare increases for its ferry and bus systems.

“That is something we should absolutely consider,” he said. “We need to create a sustainable budget. We do a great public service by providing ferry and bus lines. We should be committed to maintaining that service at a high level.”

Snyder said the district’s main focus for the past year has been converting the bridge to an all-electronic tolling system.

“We have delayed increasing the toll,” Snyder said. “And now we have some catching up to do.”

Along with reviewing a new toll increase, the bridge district will also look into the possibility of adding part-time bus operators, lowering rent at its San Francisco parking lot and completing the installation of a new radio communications system. All initiatives are expected to help the agency’s budget outlook.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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