San Francisco

$5 Billion Plan to Ease Bay Area Traffic Headed to Ballot

How much would you be willing to pay to get out of the Bay Area gridlock?

Some transportation leaders say they've figured out a way to raise $5 billion to get traffic flowing again. But it comes with a catch: paying more to cross bridges in the Bay Area.

Proponents of a new measure say the fees would provide relief from everyday traffic gridlock, which has become the norm in the region.

"I drive every morning from San Jose to Menlo Park, and every day it's worse and worse, and I have to leave earlier and earlier," San Jose resident Roberta Mirabal said.

Studies show the average Bay Area commuter spends 29 hours a year stuck in traffic moving slower than 35 mph. Now, some leaders say solutions including dedicated bus lanes and transit that circles the bay could be a reality.

But it starts with voters approving regional Measure 3, expected to be on the ballot in June. The measure would hike tolls on bridges, including the Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges. The increases would raise as much as $5 billion to improve transportation in the area, officials said.

"Some of the marquee projects are extending BART to Silicon Valley, extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco and beefing up ferry service throughout the Bay Area," said Chris O'Connor of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The toll hike would also fund an expansion of a managed lane system to break up bottlenecks on Bay Area highways, officials said.

Critics, however, say the plan penalizes people who are forced to cross bridges to get to their jobs.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will release the results of a poll indicating how much of a bridge toll increase the public would support.

Bay Area leaders also have talked about a mega measure to fix traffic that would include adding a second transbay tube for BART and a new span crossing the bay.

Contact Us