By Ken Hambrick
This June we’ll be voting on a bridge toll increase. It will be fraudulently billed as congestion relief. It is nothing of the sort. Only 31% goes for roads and provides for NO increased traffic capacity.
The major cause of congestion is the Bay Bridge, which is totally overloaded causing major backups daily. Almost 300,000 cars squeeze through the bridge each day. Cars are piling up on the freeways leading to the bridge.
Since the bridge is the major point of congestion, something must be done. The proposed $3 toll increase won’t do it. The proposed use of the funds goes like this:
- 300 new BART cars; construction of more high-occupancy vehicle lanes; expand ferry systems and more express buses; BART service to San Jose.
- No new highways - No new freeways or highways have been built since the late 70s. Meanwhile population has increased from 24 million in 1980 to 39 million in 2016.
- 79% of Contra Costa commuters drive to work, while only 11% use transit.
There is nothing in the proposed tax addressing the bridge overcrowding. It won’t bring any relief to congestion. And there is no way to increase the bridge capacity.
Senator Feinstein and Congressman DeSaulnier both advocate construction of a second crossing from East Bay to the Peninsula. Feinstein advocated this in 2000 in a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). MTC concluded that the cost would be least $8.2 billion and rejected the proposal.
The state spent about $7 billion building the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge which added no additional capacity, rather than retrofitting the old bridge (estimated cost $1-2 billion).
Consideration was not even given to a new bay crossing.
A quote from Debra Sanders of Real Politics is right on the mark:
“If the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge were a football team, the coach would have been fired; the quarterback would have been dropped from the team; and the remaining athletes would have felt a pinch in their endorsement income.
But because the new eastern span was a government project that ran four times over budget and took more than twice as long to complete than was expected -- and the retrofit required a retrofit even before it was open to the public -- no individual will lose his job; no contractor will lose state business; and no politician need worry about this boondoggle sabotaging his re-election.”
The only feasible solution to the bridge congestion is building another bridge. Retrofitting the old Bay Bridge instead of building a new one would have freed up at least $5 billion for a second bridge.
MTC, the Legislature and all other politicians continue to ignore this problem and solution.
Yes, it would be costly, estimated at about $7-8 billion. The $3 toll increase won’t pay for all of it but I would vote for it if it is to be used for a new bridge.
The new Jerry Brown transportation tax effective November 1, 2017 won’t relieve congestion either. It raises $52 billion in new revenues, ostensibly for transportation repair and replacement, especially highways and roads, although $14 billion will be earmarked for other things like transit, rail (High Speed Rail?), bicycles, etc. Again no increase in road and highway capacity.
It’s time our politicians faced reality and deal with the Bay Bridge bottleneck. As columnist Daniel Borenstein says, “But environmentalists who want to reduce our dependency on cars will certainly object.” But one can’t force people into transit when it doesn’t work for them.
Do the environmentalists like the pollution from all those cars idling in the backups? I think not.