Sixty cents seemed like an awfully hefty one-way toll when the San Diego Coronado Bridge opened back in 1969. So the bridge authority figured conservatively, estimating it could pay off the $47.6 million in bonds by 2003. Traffic across the bay today is so brisk that it looks the bridge may be paid off by about 1990, but that doesn’t mean a lowered toll is in sight.
Bridge manager Byrd Thysell says planners originally predicted the bridge would draw about 18,000 cars daily, whereas about 32,000 cars are actually making the trip each day now. Thysell adds, however, that discount commute fares have also made the average return per vehicle lower than expected, about 49 cents per vehicle, instead of the anticipated 60 cents.
With average cost running about 44 cents a car, the combined result is that “revenues aren’t really that outstanding.” Even though the first blush of wealth has enabled the authority to buy back about $7 million of its bonds, Thysell says, “The Coronado Bridge is a good bond to buy ... you can always clip its coupons and make sure you’ll get your interest.” Still, the security can’t compare with spectacular successes like the San Francisco, Oakland Bay or the Golden Gate bridges, Thysell asserted.