The Bridge Isn't Built, But the Bike Path Might Be Moving

Today, the CA Assembly's Committee on Transportation approved a bill that would permit the SF Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) to use toll-generated funds to finance a bicycle-pedestrian-maintenance pathway on the West Span of the new Bay Bridge. The West Span refers to the bridge connecting San Francisco and Yerba Buena Island. The bill is intended to clarify questions over whether the BATA has the authority to spend toll revenue on this project. It has already been passed in the Senate. There is a 15-foot-wide pathway being built on the East Span between the island and Oakland. Organizations including the SF Bicycle Coalition are pushing for a shore-to-shore pathway that would prevent people from having to board a bus for the final half of their commute. 

The bill was proposed by State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), who introduced it at today's hearing. Andrew Casteel, executive director for the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition, was the first to testify in support, stating that more residents are using bikes for their work commute, averaging 30 to 40 miles a week.

Hancock noted that the bill includes a provision that prohibits the Toll Authority from raising rates to finance the shore-to-shore project. Assemblyman Roger Niello (R-5) appeared skeptical. "How would you ever know [whether a toll rate increase was by virtue of this project]?" Hancock vaguely responded that the provision is simply to clarify the motives behind the bill, which do not include raising the toll, and also to encourage the project's financers to look at alternative sources of funding, whether federal or private.

Niello retorted that "it would seem impossible at some point in time to deny that tolls will increase for this purpose, [and that] this provision could provide an argument for not increasing the toll when it might otherwise be needed for operation of the toll's facility." In other words--how will the BATA maintain its services if financing the project puts pressure on its operational budget? 

Though the issue wasn't cleared up, the hearing concluded with a vote of 7-3, moving the bill through the committee.

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