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Golden Gate Bridge authority nixes toll-takers, Cal-OSHA fines refinery, and a bill to arm teachers

Under CC license from Flickr user Yang and Yun

Human employees take a financial toll

Toll-takers on the Golden Gate Bridge are on their way out – human toll-takers, that is. Today marks the first day of a testing period for a new all-electronic toll collection system. In sixty days – if all goes according to plan – motorists crossing into San Francisco will have to use an automated payment system, or they will receive a bill by mail after the bridge authority takes a photo of their license plate.

Spokesperson Mary Currie says the change is mostly about the budget.

“We have a $66-million five-year shortfall and with the movement from manual collection to electronic collection we can save approximately $16 million over an 8 year period,” says Currie.

Currie expects the change will be fairly easy, because more than two thirds of the people who cross the bridge today already pay their tolls electronically through FasTrak. Drivers can also pay using credit cards or cash or use smart phones or the Internet to pre-pay, but Currie says that toll-takers won’t be there to collect the payment.

The toll-takers union is unhappy about the shift, but have has not made spokespeople available to the media.

Refinery receives fine

The Chevron Corporation has been found to be “in serious violations of safety standards” by Cal-OSHA, which has been investigating the fire at the Chevron refinery last August. The agency is fining the corporation nearly $1 million – the highest fine Cal-OSHA has ever levied, and the highest allowed by law. Chevron is in the process of implementing corrective actions in response to the accident.

Teachers as potential school marshals

Southern California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly introduced a bill this morning that would authorize certain school employees in California to carry concealed weapons. These authorized marshals would undergo standard background checks, but, according to the proposal, it would be up to individual schools and districts to create additional training and screening programs.