Toll bridge traffic nears 90% of pre-COVID levels

Bay Area drivers got a big jump on this week's official start of California’s post-pandemic era by returning in large numbers this spring to the region’s toll bridges and other freeways.

Average weekday traffic in the toll-paying direction at the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges rose by more than 7% from early March to early June, representing some 34,000 additional trips each weekday — or enough to fill a freeway lane operating at 35 mph for about 17 hours straight. As a consequence, congestion-related delays have returned as a recurring daily headache in many of the Bay Area’s traditional traffic hot spots.

Overall, daily toll bridge traffic roughly has doubled from the COVID-era lows registered in early April 2020 and now averages 85% of the levels recorded in mid-June of 2019. Traffic across the Antioch Bridge, the least-traveled of the Bay Area's state-owned toll bridges, already has returned to pre-pandemic levels and daily traffic volumes now routinely approach or even top 90% of pre-COVID numbers at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez and Richmond-San Rafael bridges.

The San Mateo-Hayward and Dumbarton bridges, by contrast, continue to register the largest declines in daily traffic on a percentage basis. While westbound traffic across both spans connecting Alameda and San Mateo counties has risen by nearly a third over the past year, the number of weekday crossings at the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge is still about 25% below June 2019 levels and weekday volumes at the Dumbarton Bridge average close to 35% below those seen two years ago.