Lawmakers Propose New SF Bridge, Tunnel
To address worsening traffic congestion, California lawmakers are urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to build a new bridge across the San Francisco Bay, along with an east-west Transbay connection and a second Transbay Tube.
Democractic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier wrote a letter to the MTC on Wednesday (Dec. 6) urging for the development of these projects.
Traffic in the Bay Area has increased by 80 percent since 2010, with the evening commute on the I-280 to the Treasure Island Tunnel having the worst congestion in 2016.
“The traffic demands on our streets and transit systems have become intolerable,” Feinstein said in the letter to the MTC. “Quality of life is suffering; and, our economy is not nearly thriving as much as it could be if these transportation challenges were addressed.”
Regional Measure III, the current proposal on the table, would raise bridge tolls for all Bay Area bridges (except the Golden Gate Bridge) from $5 to $8, and $6 to $9 during commute hours on the Bay Bridge. If the measure passes with voters next year, the money raised by the tolls will be put toward transit. According to DeSaulnier, that funding needs to include the construction of a new bridge.
“If they raise the tolls and this isn’t part of it, the window of opportunity for building another bridge is lost for another 20 or 30 years,” DeSaulnier said. “If you’re in that commute, you can expect it to get worse and there’s no significant remedy for it for many years.”
According to The Mercury News, the toll increase by itself could not account for the cost of constructing a Southern Crossing, but the commitment could be the leverage needed to get additional funding elsewhere.
Public Transit Focus
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), on the other hand, is pushing for the money to be allocated more toward public transit, rather than moving "one car at a time across a toll bridge."
Wiener’s focus is on a second transbay rail crossing.
“A second tube can mean more BART trains running, including 24-hour service, a connection between Caltrain and the Capitol Corridor, and high-speed rail to the East Bay," the senator said. "That is how we are going to reduce gridlock, not by building another bridge that pours more cars onto our highways on both sides of the Bay."
According to KTVU, there are four east-to-west bridges that cross the Bay: the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge; the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland; the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge; and the Dumbarton Bridge.
What remains clear is that, currently, the Bay Bridge is at capacity, and BART, the Bay Area’s largest mass transit system, may be unable to keep pace with commute pressure.
Second Bay Crossing History
Curbed SF noted that, in the past, architect Frank Lloyd Wright created a design for an additional span. Wright hated the idea of a second steel span, so he created the design for the concrete Butterfly Bridge, which was created in collaboration with engineer Jaroslav J. Polivka.
In 2002, the MTC took a look at a plan for a bridge that would span from the junction of Interstates 238 and 880 in San Leandro to interchange of I-380 and Highway 101, which is north of the San Francisco airport. This span would have been located at the Bay’s widest spot, which resulted in a price tag range of $6.6 billion to $8.2 billion. The addition of a rail line would have doubled the cost.