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Golden Gate Bridge at a Crossroads - 2002-12-04

Some 16 million people visit San Francisco, California ever year, and the Golden Gate Bridge ranks as one of the city’s most popular attractions. But just how many people would be willing to make a donation to cross the bridge? And why would the city even consider asking them to do so? VOA-TV’s George Dwyer has our report.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate is much more than a local landmark. It is an icon of American engineering. But the agency that runs the bridge is short 300 million dollars in operating expenses, says Bridge Spokesperson Mary Currie.

“We have a crisis right now, because we can't balance our budget.”

The transit agency that operates the 65 year-old bridge is so short of cash it raised tolls in September from three to five dollars. But that won't be enough. So tourists and other visitors are being asked to help bail out the bridge through private donations.

“I think it's kind of a silly idea.”

“They're going to have to do a lot more than that.”

In fact, the transit agency has come up with a long list of ideas to raise more money to pay for bridge maintenance, security, and expensive subsidies for ferries and buses. But it's the idea of asking for donations that is drawing the most attention.

“I think it's ludricous.”

Joseph Blue, one of the agency's directors, voted to study the idea, but is now embarassed by it.

“To have us here on our hands and knees begging for change is humiliating for not only the bridge itself but the city and counties that surround it.”

“It's not so much panhandling, it's really a donation for a cause that everybody loves.”

But just how much they love it remains to be seen.