Wednesday, July 14 Riding and Counting


Several carpool rides have passed since my last blog on Monday morning. MONDAY EVENING: the return commute was nice and easy. The line in San Francisco was short and moving quickly. I squeezed into the back seat of a Honda 2-door. There was no mention of toll. The driver and rider in the front seat commute together daily. I join their lively conversation about walking and exercise, and learn that the woman passenger regularly walks the Vallejo waterfront as do I. We talk about what a great 3-mile walk it is. I did it frequently during my Bay to Breakers ‘training’. The driver says he used to jog and was in great shape, jogging around Lake Merritt in 9 minutes! He laments his out of shape condition, and we encourage him to walk the waterfront. As we pass through the toll booth his FasTrack transponder does not beep, and he says it hasn’t for awhile. He also thinks the FasTrack people are overcharging him. I urge him to call them, get a new transponder and be sure they know he uses it in the carpool lane. Before I get out of the car I leave $1 for toll which he greatly appreciates. TUESDAY MORNING: No waiting this morning and I ride in a Ford 2-door pickup truck. The driver, who introduces himself – Brian – works in construction. The truck is a company truck, so no toll worries here. He’s resigned to the tolls, “it’s the economy “, he says. “The times we live in.” We chat about family and work. A nice ride. WEDNESDAY MORNING (TODAY): I’m off to a late start. Our hot water heater stopped working last night, so my go-to-work preparations were delayed by having to deal with very cold water. Wakes you up! But there’s no line of riders today, just a long line of cars waiting and I am in the front seat of a black Mitsubishi Evolution X. It looks like there’s $1.25 already in the cup holder (from the rear seat passenger), so I add mine. The driver is a young Asian-American looking snappy in a crisp blue-striped shirt and suit pants. I see the jacket and tie in the back seat. He’s an aggressive driver, doing 80 mph and flying by the three non-carpool lanes until a Camry pulls out in front of us. True to form, he tailgates, but then traffic gets heavy in all the lanes and we’re all moving at about 45 mph to the toll area.

As I ride, I count. I am paying an additional $50 per month toll contribution – $600 a year. The BATA (Bay Area Toll Authority) estimates that the carpool toll alone will raise approximately $30 million dollars a year. The revenue from the carpool toll will go towards the seismic retrofit projects on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges, estimated at $750 million to complete.

It will also go towards the overruns on the $6 billion (plus) cost of the Bay Bridge retrofit. Steve Heminger, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a 3-person panel overseeing the Bay Bridge Project, said “any cost over-runs on the Bay Bridge will have to be covered through toll revenue.”

The retrofit project became a priority after the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. You undoubtedly remember the chilling photographs of the bridge buckling during the quake, when a motorist was killed on the east span of the Bay Bridge. In 1992 a UC Berkeley team estimated retrofit of the east span to cost up to $200 million. In 1995, Caltrans proposed replacing rather than retrofitting the bridge, due to the high cost, however the report on a replacement for the east span came in at $843 million in 1996. Go figure. $200 million versus $843 million? In 1997 Governor Wilson announced that the eastern span would be rebuilt, and workshops, design submissions, panel recommendations were in the works until June, 1998 when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved the bridge design at a cost of $1.5 billion. What? January 2002 saw the east span groundbreaking, with Caltrans announcing the new bridge would open in 2007. In March 2003 Caltrans increased the cost estimate to $3 billion, citing the unique scale and complexity of the project. Estimates continued to increase, until last December when the estimated cost reached $6.3 billion. Yikes. Whatever happened to that 1992 $200 million retrofit estimate?

$30 million annual revenue from carpool toll
$750 million retrofit Antioch and Dumbarton Bridges
$6.3 billion Bay Bridge rebuild

My $50 a month: chump change. In every sense of the word.

2 Responses

  1. I think you mean 200 million.

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