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Law in works to oppose toll
December 14, 2010, 01:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Assemblyman Jerry Hill will craft legislation to oppose a plan to charge motorists a $3 toll to enter San Francisco at the county line.

Hill, D-San Mateo, will announce his plan to introduce the legislation to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors today. The board, acting as the city’s transportation authority, is expected to vote today on whether to pursue studying "congestion pricing” in the financial district and at the county line, also called the southern gateway.

Under the plan, San Mateo County residents who work in the city, for instance, would be charged $6 daily during peak commute times to enter and exit the city.

Hill supports San Francisco’s effort to ease traffic downtown.

"The financial district makes sense — to attack a direct problem with a direct solution,” Hill said.

Charging a toll at the county line, however, is a regional issue that should be addressed at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Hill said.

The San Mateo County City/County Association of Governments has already come out in opposition to San Francisco’s plan.

Hillsborough Councilman Tom Kasten, who also sits on the C/CAG board, drafted a letter last month that local officials signed to urge the authority to eliminate the southern gateway option from further consideration.

"It is impractical to impose tolls on people who are bringing economic benefit to the city,” Kasten said. "It is the wrong solution to the problem.”

Kasten fears people will do anything to avoid paying the toll, including driving on local streets to get into San Francisco.

"It would flood traffic onto local streets here and in San Francisco, too.” Kasten said. "It doesn’t feel right.”

Under the proposal, all drivers would pay $3 upon entering or exiting San Francisco from the south via highways and major local streets from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and another $3 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The toll would cost Peninsula commuters up to $1,500 a year.

Penalizing its neighbors could lead to a "toll war,” Hill said.

"What if South San Francisco wanted to charge a toll for entering Oyster Point? Many employees come from San Francisco to work at the biotech companies,” Hill said.

Hill said the toll would place another burden on residents already facing tough economic times.

Charging a toll at the county line could work if the region’s public transportation system was more accommodating, Hill said.

"Public transit is facing dwindling resources, it won’t meet the need of commuters. People won’t take Caltrain or BART. If we had a sophisticated, vibrant public transportation system it could work to an extent,” Hill said.

The earliest the city could set up congestion pricing would be 2015, after a lengthy environmental review process.

The authority will make no recommendations as to a preferred option at its meeting today, said Tilly Chang, deputy director of planning at the transportation authority.

Money generated from congestion pricing would benefit the transportation needs of San Mateo County residents as well, Chang said.

The money could be prioritized to better MUNI service and SamTrans service between the two counties, Chang said.

Early estimates to set up a toll system range from $60 million to $100 million. The toll would generate $60 million to $80 million in profits each year and would be used to improve roads and transit options, according to the transportation authority.


The San Francisco Transportation Authority meets 11 a.m., today, Room 250, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco.


Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.


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