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Commuters wary of another round of bridge toll hikes

Rohnert Park resident Tom O'Doul knows exactly how much a series of proposed toll increases on the Golden Gate Bridge would cost him.

The retired mailman crosses the landmark span 81 times a year to attend San Francisco Giants home games.

If bridge officials increase his $5 FasTrak toll to $7 by 2018, he'll be shelling out an extra $162 to see his favorite team.

“I don't like seeing anything go up,” said O'Doul. “It seems like everything does.”

O'Doul was among a handful of people who voiced opinions Wednesday night in Petaluma about the increases that could begin as soon as April.

Bridge officials have suggested four slightly different, phased-in toll hikes to raise between $93 million and $138 million to pay for construction projects, maintenance and operations.

Also, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which runs regional buses and ferries, is facing a $142 million, five-year budget shortfall.

“Everybody realizes the looming deficit requires some increase,” said bridge director and Petaluma resident Brian Sobel.

Under one option, non-FasTrak tolls would increase to $6.50 in April and $7 in 2015. Other options would raise tolls in April to $7.

Under all four proposals, tolls would climb to $8 for non-FasTrak users by 2018.

FasTrak rates would remain $1 less in most of the plans, though one option would have FasTrak users paying $6.50 in 2018.

The last toll increase was in 2008.

Most of the half-dozen people who turned out at a town hall-style meeting at the Lucchesi Community Center opposed any increase at all.

Many, like Petaluma resident Carol Porter, said the tolls unfairly penalize commuters who drive into the city to make a living.

Bridge officials estimate that 12 percent of southbound traffic originates from Sonoma County.

Porter suggested bridge officials instead charge tourists who walk or ride bikes across the bridge. A $1 pedestrian toll would raise millions, supporters said.

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