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Golden Gate Bridge toll takers may fall to budget ax

Facing a $132-million budget deficit, the group that runs the storied San Francisco span considers a plan to switch to all-electronic toll collection by 2013.

April 12, 2010|By Cara Mia DiMassa

The Golden Gate Bridge's 35 toll collectors could become relics of the past under a cost-cutting move being considered by the bridge's operator.

The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District says it is facing a projected deficit of $132 million over the next five years.

On Friday, the district's board of directors voted to move forward with a study of a plan to have all tolls collected electronically by 2013.

Currently, 34% of tolls collected on the bridge are paid with cash. But "operating in an all-electronic environment is becoming standard practice in the toll-collection industry," according to a staff report on the potential change.

Once the study is complete, officials say, no final decision would be made for at least six months.

Officials say converting to electronic tolls would save the district about $16 million over 10 years in salaries and benefits.

Officials say the projected deficit can be traced to a number of causes, including reduced traffic and transit ridership because of the recession and the loss of about $6 million in annual transit operating funds from the state of California.

Other cost-cutting measures being considered for the bridge include an increase in tolls for carpools and multiaxle trucks; freezing the salaries of some employees; and developing an interactive visitor experience that would tell the historical, cultural and engineering history of the storied span.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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