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Disabled drivers pay for Golden Ears, get free ride on Port Mann

It’s not easy when you’re getting on in years and you have to get to frequent appointments to maintain your health.

It’s particularly not easy when you’re Bev Van De Keere and your health-care providers are in Langley and you have pay a toll to drive across the Golden Ears Bridge to see your doctors, while others with disabled passes cross the Port Mann Bridge for free.

“Sometimes we go three times a week, sometimes it’s once, or maybe not at all. It just adds up,” said Bev’s son, Phil Van De Keere.

“She’s going to her regular doctor, her cardiologist, her eye doctor, this doctor, that doctor.”

Bev, 78, moved to Maple Ridge from Langley a few years before the Golden Ears Bridge opened in 2009 so she could be closer to her son and so that he could take care of her. But that meant leaving their health network on the south side of the Fraser River.

His mom has a pacemaker and has heart problems, as well as arthritis and finds it hard to get around.

She has a transponder on her vehicle, giving her the $3 discount rate, while Phil’s vehicle pays a higher charge.

With multiple crossings, the bill can add up to $50 a month. Their most recently highest monthly price paid in Golden Ears Bridge tolls was $133.

If they were to take a 40-minute detour, however, and drive west across the Pitt River Bridge and along the Mary Hill Bypass to the new Port Mann, they’d cross for free.

But his mom doesn’t know Surrey as well and most of her appointments are in east Langley.

“I don’t like her in the traffic. I’d rather pay more money than have her get killed,” Phil explained.

Sometimes he’ll drive through Abbotsford and Mission when he has to fill up for gas.

According to Treo, which manages the Port Mann Bridge tolls for the provincial government, people with disabilities pay no tolls.

Its website explains that exemptions from the $3 tolls are given to people with disabilities, as recognized by the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.

People with either a physician’s certificate or a Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit also can get an exemption. Applications must be filled out and exemptions renewed yearly.

But Phil got nowhere when he asked TransLink for the same thing on the Golden Ears Bridge. The crossing is built, financed and operated by the transportation authority.

“I said, ‘Why isn’t TransLink doing that?’ They said, ‘We don’t do that.’

“It’s not a lot out of their pocket for seniors who are handicapped.”

TransLink though says it's not planning on changing its policy. The pricing structure and exemptions allowed per its bylaw are built into its funding model for the bridge, it said via e-mail.

 

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