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Taxpayers may foot bill for Bay Bridge party

Bay Area Toll Authority officials voted Wednesday to set aside a cool $5.6 million in bridge toll money so the celebratory Bay Bridge opening walk can in fact take place on Labor Day weekend.

But that doesn’t mean it will be free.

Officials disagreed on whether or not to charge the public for the walk from San Francisco to Oakland on the newly constructed east section of the bridge.

Some oppose dipping even more into taxpayers’ pockets, after they helped foot the east span’s $6.4 billion construction bill.

Bay Area Toll Authority member and Solano County Supervisor James Spering told the Contra Costa Times:

“I oppose charging anyone a dime to go (walk) across the bridge. Taxpayers have paid dearly for this bridge.”

Many also see the opening as a once in a lifetime, historic event for the Bay Area that everyone, regardless of their income, should be able to enjoy.

Other members, however, feel the weight of $5.6 million on their shoulders. They think the taxpayers should share that burden by shelling out a couple bucks to walk across the bridge on Labor Day weekend.

This could also assuage criticism that The City is dropping millions on what could be called a “party,” San Jose representative Sam Liccardo told the Times.

The walk is limited to the first 120,000 people who sign up in advance for the event. It precedes a separately organized (and separately financed, by a private foundation called the Bay Bridge Alliance) walk, run and bike across the bridge that will cost participants more than $5.

Officials have decided to put off making the decision for another month.

Meanwhile, the Bridge is getting ready for another costly venture: The Bay Lights grand lighting ceremony, which takes place this Tuesday, March 5th at 8 p.m.

The project’s patron, Zero1, and donors have managed to raise $6 million to cover the installation and opening, but there’s still $2 million to go to cover full program costs through 2015.

At least taxpayers can enjoy this one for free.

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