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Adding tolls to freeways under study as California fights greenhouse gases
photo credit: (Credit: Dougtone)
A long range plan could add tolls on many local highways. 
It's far from a done deal, and officials anticipate widespread displeasure, but sometime in the future, driving down 101 could cost you.  A half million dollar Caltrans grant will allow the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission to study adding tolls to all lanes of Bay Area freeways.
"The idea is to reduce vehicle miles traveled," said John Goodwin, a MTC spokesman.
Goodwin said the impetus is California's ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meeting those goals today, would require eliminating about a fifth of all vehicle trips statewide. He acknowledged tolls won't win kudos from the general public. But, he says, final decisions are more than a decade away and will be repeatedly revised.
"The idea is to move as many people as we can in as few vehicles as possible," he added. 
In the North Bay, Goodwin says, adding tolls with variable pricing paid through FasTrak to 101 between Petaluma and San Rafael is under consideration. Qualifying low income people would get discounts---paying half the normal toll. 
Congestion also fits in. Vehicles sitting in the same bottlenecks decade after decade exhaust greenhouse gases too. Fixing bottlenecks and opening underused carpool lanes to all, is also under consideration. 
The study may be for naught though. Goodwin says if electric and alternative fuel vehicles replace enough gas and diesel-powered vehicles, "The kinds of things that need to be done, to meet greenhouse gas emissions reductions would be less radical," Goodwin said.
A separate grant will help pay for a study on combining and better coordinating service among the 27 different Bay Area mass transit providers.
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