When the Golden Gate Bridge switches to all-electronic tolling next Wednesday, March 27, drivers will all be able to cruise through the toll plaza at 25 mph.
Since cash will no longer be accepted in the toll lanes and no one will be required to stop, the board of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District are set to approve on Friday morning an increase of the current speed limit of 15 mph– although the posted signs ‘advise’ motorists to go 5 mph. The change is meant to reduce congestion and speed up traffic on the bridge, Public Affairs Director Mary Currie said.
District officials received no comments about the increase during a public hearing on Thursday, but one board member was a bit concerned.
“Twenty-five just seems fast through the toll plaza,” said Barbara Pahre of Napa. “I guess people will slow down because it’s narrow?”
Indeed, that’s the idea. The district hired traffic-engineering consultant Whitlock & Weinberger Transportation, which determined that with the nine-to-11-foot-wide lanes and surrounding support poles and structures, drivers tend to slow down anyway, and 25 miles per hour is considered a “maximum safe speed” through the toll plaza. Other toll bridges in the Bay Area also have a posted speed limit of 25 mph.
All lanes will take FasTrak, and will be restriped so that lanes (left to right) 1, 2, and 3; 4, 5, and 6; and 7 and 8 will be paired together and then each cluster will merge into a single lane 400 feet beyond the plaza. The district also plans to add a carpool lane in toll lane 2. That carpool lane will be only for going through the toll plaza, not for driving over the bridge.
Drivers will have four options for paying the their toll: FasTrak, a license plate account, a one-time payment of an invoice, which are all further explained here. Ten pilot electronic kiosks for cash paying customers have already been rolled out in Marin and San Francisco, and officials plan to have a total of 150 up and running by March 27.
“We’re six days away from one of the most visible changes for the travelling public on the Golden Gate Bridge,” Currie said.
So now, it’s a matter of getting the word out.
Workers are currently erecting a 27-foot sign above the toll booths that will read “Do Not Stop, Automatic Tolling.” They’ve installed electronic signs north of the bridge warning drivers of the change, have reached out to a number of media organizations, and have posted the news in 11 different languages on the Golden Gate Bridge district website. Drivers will soon be able dial **GGB to receive a text message with a web link to information about the update.
When the all-electronic tolling goes into effect on Wednesday, Currie anticipates a relatively smooth morning since 86 percent of commuters use FasTrak. But by mid-day “we may expect to see some challenges,” she said. Staff will be on hand to wave people through the lanes, and there will also be a pull-off station where drivers can stop to get more information.
Signs will remain up, and staff will be on hand to help motorist for as long as they’re needed.
“I think,” Currie said, “what we’re going to be facing is an ongoing challenge to reach the entire world that might be traveling over the Golden Gate Bridge.”