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Voters Who Don't Use Bridges To Weigh In On Proposed Toll Hike

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- A proposed toll hike on Bay Area bridges is likely headed for the ballot, but not everyone who's voting on it will be paying the higher tolls.

The proposed ballot measure would raise tolls on the seven state-run bridges by up to $3.

That would bring the toll to $9 on the Bay Bridge during commute hours and $8 everywhere else.

A poll commissioned by the MTC found a solid majority of voters supported the toll hike, but KPIX 5 learned there is more to those numbers than meets the eye after speaking to some local commuters.

"That's unfair. If you don't use it, why vote for it?" said one driver.

"That's not right," agreed another.

Here's what they're complaining about.

Drivers in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties cross Bay Area bridges the most, yet voters in all nine counties will get a say on how much more it'll cost to use the seven local bridges.

For example, Santa Clara County will have a big voice on the toll hike, because it's got the biggest voting population in the Bay Area.

But an MTC study shows only three percent of the Santa Clara County voters are frequent toll payers.

"I don't think people in San Jose should be voting if they're not going to use the bridges," said regular toll payer Marryann Beesley.

MTC said its survey shows a lot of support for a $3 toll hike.

Here's why: Most of the voters surveyed won't have to pony up the money. Only 25 percent of those surveyed say they drive across a bridge a few times a month.

58 percent use a bridge a few times a year.

Regional leaders say toll payers may not like it now, but they'll like it later, promising less congestion on Bay Area bridges and freeways.

They say the money would improve public transportation like BART, buses, and the ferry system. The money would also fix choke points on some highways.

Officials say everyone wins.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta represents parts of Alameda County.

He compares it to renters voting to increase property taxes. It happens in every U.S. election.

"I think it's fair," said Bonta. "It might not be fair in everyone's mind. But it's one that works and it's a tool that we need to fix the congestion."

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