Peak-time toll increase on hold 

A controversial plan to charge drivers an extra fee for crossing the Golden Gate Bridge during busy travel times may be shelved by bridge officials — but county transportation officials say they’re still looking for ways to require some sort of surcharge for bridge users that would help pay for seismic upgrades to the southern approach to the bridge.

Earlier this year, the Golden Gate Bridge District agreed to implement a variable toll — in addition to an already approved $1 toll increase — to help the region secure a $159 million federal grant, which was contingent on the creation of a traffic congestion-reducing toll.

Officials from the federal Department of Transportation and the bridge district could not see eye to eye on how much the extra toll should be, however, leaving the grant in jeopardy.

After weeks of negotiating between local and federal officials, an agreement was made Friday that saves the grant by dropping the toll and focusing congestion-reducing methods on a series of parking initiatives and traffic management programs sponsored by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, according to Jose Luis Moscovich, the executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

The SFCTA, a transit-funding agency, has lobbied for money to rebuild Doyle Drive.

Instead of the variable-fee plan — which would have increased cash fares during busy weekday commutes and weekends — a “seismic surcharge” could still be added to existing tolls on the bridge, said Moscovich.

The details of the surcharge amount, which would go toward funding the Doyle Drive project, will be released in mid-September, Moscovich said.

Mary Currie, spokeswoman the Golden Gate Bridge District, wouldn’t elaborate on Moscovich’s references to a seismic surcharge, but said the district was “committed to cooperating with our regional partners on stabilizing Doyle Drive.” Many board members from the North Bay have expressed strong opposition to Doyle Drive tolls.

Officials from the Department of Transportation could not be reached for comment.

The $1 toll increase — which boosts automobile tolls from $5 to $6 for cash payers and from $4 to $5 for FasTrak users — will start Sept. 2.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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