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Golden Gate Bridge testing electronic toll system

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Testing of a new toll system for the Golden Gate Bridge began Wednesday, as the span gets ready to become the first in California to do away with toll collectors and go all-electronic.

Bridge officials anticipate that starting in late March, drivers will be able to pay using an existing transponder system as well as the new system that scans license plates at the toll plaza. Using cash on the span will no longer be an option.

The license plates will be connected to pay-as-you-go or pre-paid accounts. In addition, one-time payments using the plate numbers can be made online or at kiosks.

Motorists who fail to pay in advance will receive an invoice in the mail, not citations or fines.

“It's a gentler approach to collecting tolls,” Golden Gate Bridge District spokeswoman Mary Currie told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Toll collectors will remain during the testing period.

Bridge officials said eliminating toll takers will save about $19 million in salaries and benefits over eight years and help cut a projected budget shortfall.

The electronic system will cost $3.2 million to install and test.

Some of the more than two dozen toll takers have retired or been placed in other jobs, Currie told the Chronicle. The district is looking for alternative jobs for the remaining collectors and will offer severance packages if positions are not found.

The iconic bridge that spans the strait where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean has had toll collectors since it opened in 1937.

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