A headline story in the Napa Valley Register of Jan. 11 alluded to a proposal to boost Bay Area bridge tolls by $3. Implementation of Regional Measure 3 is scheduled to be included on either the June or November 2018 Bay Area ballots.
In addition to raising bridge tolls (on all bay bridges except the Golden Gate) this measure would create a new perpetual regional bureaucratic taxing authority in the nine ABAG counties.
A number of problems are apparent with this proposal:
1. It is similar to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority promoted by The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which sponsored the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority (SFBRA) leading to the Measure AA parcel tax in Napa. Again like the establishment of the SFBRA no action is identified for voters to elect the officials who will be responsible for management of the new regional authority. Instead the officials managing the billions of dollars collected would all be appointed and are thus not responsible to residents and can not be easily removed or replaced.
2. In the past, Regional Measure 1 and Regional Measure 2 both increased tolls on the bay bridges by $1. Measure 3 allows $3 toll increases on the same bridges. Additional increases for inflation or other purposes could be proposed by the new regional authority. An initial list of projects resulting from these toll increases shows a $2.68 billion project list to be funded by the higher tolls collected.
Approximately half of these added tolls would be provided to BART. Related documents reveal that BART has been authorized to issue $3.5 billion in General Obligation Bonds that are planned to be issued over 18 years. Final pay off of these bonds will not occur until 2048. It is also noteworthy that the MTC itself has not been frugal with the funds that have been provided for its operations. The MTC has spent over $250 million of bridge tolls for the controversial purchase of an office building in San Francisco for itself and sister groups of ABAG and SFBRA.
3. BART has been described by members of the MTC as being, “..too big to fail.” It is interesting to note that BART’s customer satisfaction ratings were reported in 2017 to have dropped to the lowest level in the 20 years that riders have been asked to rate the transit system.
3. Rather than continually searching for or asking taxpayers for more revenue, I believe the MTC and the regional sister agencies should be taking actions to be more efficient with the funding already provided for transportation projects in the Bay Area.
Jack Gray, Director
Napa County Taxpayers Association