Supervisor Jake McGoldrick: Rebuilding Doyle Drive

There has been a great deal of recent media coverage regarding Doyle Drive and the possibility of implementing a new toll to help pay for the infrastructure. Nothing should be a higher priority for the region than the rebuild of Doyle Drive, the critical southern access link from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco.

Originally constructed in 1936 with narrow lanes, no median, and no shoulder, Doyle Drive is approaching the end of its useful life. Because it was built at a time when the Presidio was an active military post, the raised bridge structure needs desperately to be replaced. It is considered the worst rated bridge in the state (with a score of 2 out of 100) and the third worst bridge in the country.

While it is not in imminent danger of falling, we must heed the lessons of Minneapolis and rebuild our important infrastructure before tragedy occurs. This is especially important in a region where we are susceptible to natural disaster.

The preferred replacement project design is known as the Parkway. Supported by a very broad coalition of environmentalists, neighborhood groups and public agencies, it is a $1 billion project. The numbers are in line with what it costs to replace complex freeway structures elsewhere in the Bay Area and the United States. The east span of the Bay Bridge is costing $5.4 billion, and the west approach to the Bay Bridge, in SOMA, more than $500 million.

Over the past 8 years, the Transportation Authority staff and Board, with support from the mayor's office and more recently from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Caltrans, has succeeded in securing $641 million in funding commitments for the project. The funds include local Proposition K transportation sales tax, San Francisco's county share of the State Transportation Improvement Program (that includes federal and state gas tax), funds from special state and federal programs.

In addition, in May 2007 we secured $405 million in SHOPP (State Highway Ops and Protection Program funds - one of the largest SHOPP awards ever. Currently, the funding gap is $417 million.

Recognizing the significant need and opportunities posed by the Doyle Drive corridor, and our region's commitment to transit, the environment and smart urban planning, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) recently awarded our region a $158 million Urban Partnership Grant to demonstrate a progressive approach to congestion management and infrastructure replacement that will serve as a model for other urban regions. This grant funds a tolling system for Doyle Drive that will allow us to rebuild the facility as a modern, earthquake-proof parkway. In addition, it will help us manage congestion on this busy roadway.

In order for us to be able to use these funds, we must have state legislative authority to toll by March 31. Otherwise, we will lose these funds and the money will get sent to a project in some other part of the country.

Doyle Drive is used by more than 100,000 commuters a day, of which 80 percent are residents from the North Bay counties of Marin and Sonoma. The Transportation Authority is studying toll designs that would charge all users a fee to use the facility. It would rise higher during peak times and be reduced during off-peak times to encourage off-peak travel and use of mass transit.

Revenues from the charge would be re-invested in Doyle Drive corridor transportation improvements, including enhanced transit services.

Although no one likes the idea of paying a higher toll, the truth is transportation funding is not keeping pace with needs. User tolls are seen as a fair and equitable method to pay for critical infrastructure improvements. Tolling is a reasonable and responsible approach that has the potential to generate widespread safety, mobility and environmental benefits.

I am disappointed in the vehement negative response from the Marin officials who represent the majority of the traffic on this roadway. Marin County has "opted out" of contributing their local transportation sales tax, or their county share of state dollars to rebuilding Doyle Drive. The Golden Gate Bridge District, which obviously depends heavily on Doyle Drive, has not given any support financially for the Doyle Drive rebuild.

If Marin residents don't want to pay an extra toll for this much-needed project, their elected officials need to get out and find the funds needed and work with us in a constructive manner. Rebuilding Doyle Drive is, or should be, the highest priority for all involved.

With the United States DOT grant, we have the chance to fully fund the Doyle Drive rebuild, tackle congestion, and reinvest future proceeds into better transit. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to let slip away.

Jake McGoldrick is a San Francisco supervisor representing District 1.