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Toll Not a Burden

April 14, 1985

This is in reference to your recent story and editorial on the status and use of future Coronado Bridge tolls when the original bond issue is retired in the near future.

First, you are significantly in error with respect to the actual magnitude of the present tolls--from reading your description, one would believe that everyone pays $1.20 to travel from "San Diego to Coronado." As you must know but failed to make clear, the $1.20 toll covers the return trip, which just about everyone must take, so the true maximum toll for passenger cars is 60 cents per crossing. But the average fare that has been paid all along is certainly much less because:

- One can buy books of 20 round-trip tickets, good for a period as long as two calendar months, for $14, which works out to 70 cents per round-trip or 35 cents per crossing.

- One can buy round-trip carpool ticket books, requiring only three occupants in the vehicle, for $4.

Thus the average toll collected, because one can be sure that the heaviest users avail themselves of these low rates, is very much less than $1.20. Accordingly, the almost demagogic solicitude for those "who have paid for the bridge," as expressed by your writer, editors, Assemblyman Stirling and others, is considerably overdone in terms of the real burden to date on these regular users, including this writer.

This is not the only example of specious reasoning and looseness with facts since the ever-increasing bridge traffic created the overwhelming problems that now and foreseeably face the residents of Coronado. When a pedestrian ferry was proposed, we were told that it would violate a contractual promise to the bondholders and they might sue if it were attempted. Sue for what? There was plenty of evidence to show that a pedestrian ferry would still leave bridge traffic revenue far in excess of that required to pay off the bonds on time.

And, now that the bonds are to be paid off, one can be sure that the San Diego Unified Port District will find it "impossible" to accommodate would-be pedestrian ferry users who would require parking space on the San Diego side, as would particularly apply to the needs of the North Island workers who currently and foreseeably generate, out of necessity, the major traffic that disrupts and damages Coronado.

Some of the solutions, such as the tunnel or cut through the heart of Coronado, can only make a bad situation worse.

A solution one can be sure will find strong support from regular bridge users, even at the price of continuing the present tolls, is to subsidize (if necessary) the pedestrian ferry as well as serious Metropolitan Transit Development Board needs. There are other solutions that can at least contribute, such as rush-hour restrictions of one or more lanes on the bridge to buses and car pools and more frequent bus service (subsidized if necessary). These efforts can be immediately helpful at relatively low costs in comparison to the huge costs and time required for tunnel construction, maintenance and continued increasing traffic problems.

In short, it will take cooperation, applied intelligence, plus willingness to find a reasonable solution to solve the problem. These efforts should not be obfuscated by the unsupported and incorrect implication that the present toll structure is burdensome, particularly when the bridge traffic is the cause of the problem.



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