Golden Gate open — to business? 

So it paid off, all that local pressure applied to the state. There was that news conference underneath the Doyle Drive ramp to the Golden Gate Bridge, the better for Mayor Gavin Newsom and state Sen. Carole Migden to dramatize its dangerous deterioration. There were meetings with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, called because the state’s dispensers of voter-approved transit money atfirst rejected paying for the needed repairs.

Wisdom prevailed. How, really, can state officials turn down appeals to repair the 70-year-old freeway-like ramp to the Bay Area’s — nay, California’s — most famous icon? This is the Golden Gate Bridge, after all, and no bureaucrat should want a preventable collapse of its access from San Francisco to burden his conscience. It didn’t take but a second thought for Sacramento to direct $405 million to the one and a half miles of hazardous concrete.

That sum alone will fall short — some say $180 million — but it’s enough to flash a green light for the overdue project. And it’s enough to stimulate creative thinking about how to raise the rest of the money.

It takes little imagination to see where this is headed: tolls. The true problem solvers will need to concentrate on how far they can push FasTrak on commuters, a proposition that could be impossible to universalize. They will need to answer how much they can increase the tolls, now four bucks for FasTrakkers and five for the rest. That’s micro. The macro issue involves structuring a "public-private partnership," in which an investor or investors presumably will float the $180 million, to be repaid over time by toll collections.

We’re not finished. There’s the nettlesome matter of jurisdiction. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, facing its own $87 million deficit, has been asked to help, a reasonable argument made that Doyle Drive flows into the entire span’s gestalt. But the jurisdiction is fixed, probably necessitating two toll booths, the nuisance of which will not be wholly alleviated by electronic transponders.

Which brings us back to the idea of governmental cooperation with commercial enterprise. Aesthetes and traditionalists may plotz, but it seems inevitable that the persisten idea of naming rights will be revisited. If we can adjust to sports complexes named for telephone and Internet firms, likewise performing arts centers, advocates will argue, shouldn’t we at least think about a high-profile company sponsoring the bridge with tasteful understatement? The condition being, of course, coming up with the Doyle Drive difference.

The idea keeps popping up, and the district appears resolute about knocking it down each time. Understandably so, because private sponsorship does seem so radically at odds with Bay Area sensibilities. But we sense that it hasn’t enjoyed a full community airing — a discussion, as the 70th birthday of the bridge approaches, we encourage.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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