Toll authority votes to send Regional Measure 3 to June 5 ballot

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Photo of I-80 congestion courtesy of the wBART Facebook page.

Traffic congestion rose by 80 percent in the Bay Area since 2010, with westbound Interstate 80 between Hercules and San Francisco consistently ranking among the top three for hair-pulling gridlock.

As the booming Bay Area’s population continues to rise, prompting construction of additional housing, the region’s top urban planners are backing a proposal to gradually increase bridge tolls in order to realize long-needed traffic relief projects totaling about $4.5 billion, including in the East Bay.

On Wednesday, the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) voted to place Regional Measure 3 on the June 5 ballot. The measure would increase the tolls on seven bridges, excluding the Golden Gate Bridge, by $3 gradually by 2025, in order to fund a specific list of congestion-relief projects.

The $4.5 billion raised would fund transit infrastructure projects Bay Area-wide: Well over $1 billion will be used toward improving highway infrastructure, focusing on rebuilding and improving the most heavily trafficked corridors and adding amenities such as paid express lanes on congested routes including Interstate 80 in Contra Costa County. Funds would also be used to improve truck access on Interstate 80 and Interstate 580 to reduce congestion caused by the large vehicles.

RM3 would also fund improvements to the westbound approach to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the I-580/Richmond Parkway interchange; add ferries for the under-construction Richmond Ferry terminal; set aside $500 million for a fleet of next generation BART cars, and another $50 million to begin looking at a second BART transbay crossing. About $90 million would be spent on Capital Corridor passenger rail improvements aimed at reducing travel times and adding service frequencies.

The list of transit projects that would be funded by RM3 can be found here.

RM3 has received support from the region’s urban planning organizations: The Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and San Francisco Bay Area Planning Urban Research (SPUR). The trio has formed a coalition to promote the measure.

“Bay Area commuters battling record traffic are desperate for big investments in our transportation system that will bring meaningful relief,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Regional Measure 3 will invest $4.5 billion to clear highway bottlenecks, expand and modernize BART, bus and ferry transit services, and dramatically improve connections between buses, trains and bikes.”