Toll Is Worth Keeping

It's almost unheard of these days for government at any level to have unallocated funds, but that will essentially be the case next year as the bonds that financed construction of the Coronado Bridge are retired.

Financially, as well as architecturally, the 16-year-old bridge has been a big success, with drivers paying for it 17 years sooner than originally predicted. Now comes the question of what to do about the $1.20 toll paid by drivers traveling from San Diego to Coronado.

With the public already geared to paying the toll, most local elected officials have adopted the reasonable position that the money should continue to be collected and used for something. The ultimate decision rests with the governor and the Legislature, but a task force of representatives from the interested governmental entities is already at work coming up with suggestions.

So far, the best idea may have come from City Councilman Dick Murphy, who is also chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Development Board. He suggests lowering the fare to $1 as a nod to the daily commuters who have paid the most for the bridge.

Out of the toll money should come bridge maintenance, which now is paid for out of a separate State Highway fund. The remaining money should be split three ways, with Coronado getting half and San Diego and the MTDB each getting one-fourth.

Murphy's plan may need fine-tuning --for example, maybe more should go to Coronado so it can alleviate traffic problems caused by the bridge--but the idea behind it is sound. With transportation and traffic needs mounting, the toll, which now raises about $7.5 million annually, should not be altogether ended.

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