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Voters to decide on Bay Area bridge toll hike

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Bay Bridge Toll Plaza
A series of toll increases on Bay Area bridges other than the Golden Gate will be put before local voters in June.

The Bay Area Toll Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to place a measure on the June ballot asking voters to approve $3 in toll hikes on all Bay Area bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge over the next several years.

The measure asks for $1 toll increases in 2019, 2022 and 2025 to raise an estimated $4.45 billion in funding for transportation improvements throughout the region.

The increases would balloon the peak hour toll on the Bay Bridge to $9 by 2025 and to $8 at all times on other state-owned toll bridges in the region.

The Golden Gate Bridge — owned and operated by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District — is governed by an independent district that sets its own tolls.

The measure, known as Regional Measure 3, or RM3 for short, needs a simple majority across combined voters from all nine counties in the Bay Area in order to pass.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission chair Jake Mackenzie, who serves on the Rohnert Park City Council, said in a statement:

“Nobody likes higher tolls. … But nobody likes traffic jams or crush-loaded train cars either.”

Mackenzie added:

“The Bay Area has been blessed by several consecutive years of strong economic growth. But the price we’ve paid is the growing congestion on our freeways, railways, buses and ferries. … If our region is going to maintain its economic leadership, we have to have to invest in projects that will keep businesses and their workers moving.”

He said if the measure is approved, it will result in:

“… a comprehensive and integrated strategy that will modernize both our highways and our transit networks.”

The MTC said money generated by the increased tolls will be used to help fund dozens of transportation projects, including a BART extension to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, a Caltrain extension to the under-construction Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, new BART and San Francisco Municipal Railway Muni Metro rail cars, and ferry boats.

Jim Wunderman, the president and chief executive of the Bay Area Council business advocacy group, said in a statement:

“RM3 gives us a fighting chance to get a handle on Bay Area traffic. The significant investments RM3 will make in all nine counties will hit directly at our worst congestion problems and add major capacity to existing mass transit systems like BART, ferries and Caltrain.”

He said:

“Traffic and overcrowded transit systems are costing commuters hundreds of dollars a year in lost time and fuel and robbing them of time better spent with family and other activities. The fixes that RM3 will make to ease traffic and improve transit will also help ensure we maintain our strong economy.”

The Bay Area Council said a recent MTC poll found sufficient support to pass the measure but also concluded that an aggressive campaign would be necessary to educate and inform voters about the benefits it would bring.

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