Charging tourists to walk across the national landmark could be one way the bridge authority tackles a growing deficit problem
Officials in California are considering a proposal that would implement tolls for pedestrians and cyclists who cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Charging money to traverse the popular tourist attraction is one of more than 40 solutions that special district authorities considered Friday, in an effort to avoid a projected deficit of more than $200 million.
The body that oversees the bridge, known as the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, says that if no changes are made to current operations, they expect to be running at a deficit of $33 million in five years, up to $210 million in 10 years. The authority recently committed to new projects like helping to fund a $76 million suicide net, in addition to paying for expensive upkeep that will make the bridge more resistant to earthquakes.
About 10,000 pedestrians roll across the Golden Gate Bridge every day, according to current estimates from the district, along with 6,000 bikes, and charging them could help offset such costs. Though a district official told TIME that the new toll proposals were unlikely to see the light of day after the district’s Board of Directors heard them Friday—given how politically unpopular pedestrian and cyclist fees would be—they remained in the financial plan after a narrow vote of 10-9.
That doesn’t mean tourists will start forking up cash tomorrow. Still to come, a district official said, may be years of study about exactly how many people use the bridge and whether both tourists and locals should be charged; analyses of what effective price points might be; and, almost certainly, contentious public hearings before a final vote.
The district is likely to seek other savings through outsourcing jobs and labor negotiations, as well as the most traditional source: increased fares for the some 40 million cars that traverse the bridge each year. Only those vehicles traveling southbound, into the city, are charged the basic toll of $7, which may be increased to $8 in the near future.