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December 27, 2006-January 2, 2007

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley

This toll's for you

North Bay residents whose travels take them over Bay Area bridges need to tote along a little extra cash starting New Year's Day. Except for the Golden Gate Bridge, which already costs $5 for car crossings, beginning Jan. 1 all tolls will be $4 instead of the current $3 charge. About $1 of each toll goes for operations and maintenance; the rest covers construction projects approved by voters in 1988 and 2002, and seismic updates approved by the state legislature. The seismic projects include the $6 billion reconstruction of the east span of the Bay Bridge. Motorists who want to save money, at least temporarily, should consider paying their tolls electronically with the FasTrak tag. Throughout January, FasTrak drivers will get a $1 discount, paying only $3 per crossing. "We want to thank FasTrak customers by offering a discount, and to encourage others to sign up," says Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Bay Area Toll Authority. For details, visit Bridges charging the new toll rate in 2007 include Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dunbarton, Richmond- San Rafael, San Mateo-Hayward and San Francisco-Oakland Bay.

Fewer new jobs?

North Bay employers might not be hiring a lot of new staff early next year, according to a survey by Manpower Inc. The company contacted 14,000 U.S. employers, asking if they expect to hire more employees in the next three months, maintain current levels or reduce payrolls. For first quarter 2007, Santa Rosa had a net gain of zero: 15 percent say they'll increase their payroll, 15 percent plan cuts and 70 percent foresee no changes. In Napa and Solano counties, 23 percent will add workers, 50 percent expect no changes and 27 percent plan to cut their staff, for a net loss of -4 percent. Things are brighter in San Rafael, where 67 percent intend to hire more people, 16 percent say no change and 17 percent plan to downsize, for a 50 percent gain. Throughout Northern California, 28 percent of employers say they'll increase staffing, 47 percent say no change and 15 percent predicted fewer employees, for a 21 percent increase. Statewide, 30 percent say they'll be hiring, 13 percent will be cutting and 46 percent will stick with the employees they have, pushing the predicted number of jobs up 17 percent overall.

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