The new Port Mann Bridge (right) opens in December with eight of 10 lanes operational. The final two lanes can't be used until the old bridge is dismantled.

The new Port Mann Bridge (right) opens in December with eight of 10 lanes operational. The final two lanes can't be used until the old bridge is dismantled.

Golden Ears, Port Mann bridges merge tolling systems

Same decal for Golden Ears and new Port Mann Bridge

If you use the Golden Ears Bridge, you’ll probably use the new Port Mann Bridge, so you might as well join the crowd, register, save a bundle and make life simpler.

Then come December, you can rip out that old plastic TransLink transponder from 2010, get your $10-deposit back, and use the free TReO plastic decal, good for both bridges.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said Wednesday, when it made its announcement about toll charges for the new Port Mann, that users of both bridges can use the same decal. All motorists have to do is go to treo.ca and register and the decal they’ll receive is good to go for both bridges.

By registering before Nov. 30, motorists will pay only $1.50 per crossing of the Port Mann Bridge for the entire year, plus get $30 credit that’s good for 20 crossings for passenger vehicles.

If they don’t want the $30, motorists still have until Feb. 28 to register and get their free decal and get the $1.50 rate for the entire year, half the ongoing rate of $3 per crossing.

Drivers who don’t register before March will pay the full tolls ($3 for standard vehicles), which are set to kick in for all users in December of 2013.

Once motorists have their decals, they can turn in their transponders to the Quickpass office on 12167 Harris Rd. in Pitt Meadows and have their $10 deposit returned.

The bills that will arrive in the mail will show which bridge you used and when. Under the TReO system, tolls will be deducted automatically from motorists’ bank accounts or credit cards, speeding up the payment system.

Don’t expect any break on the Golden Ears Bridge, however.

The tolls ($2.95 with a transponder, $4.20 without) will stay as they are.

“It wouldn’t make any economic sense,” to change the Golden Ears Bridge tolls, TransLink spokesman Drew Snider said Thursday.

With billing for bridges soon to be integrated, the transponders for Golden Ears will remain “… at this time, we are keeping the Quickpass operation in place.”

Snider pointed out that Golden Ears Bridge traffic has increased, after lagging behind projections the first three years, following its opening in July 2009. Golden Ears was also free for the first month, he added.

“We’ve seen a constant increase in traffic over the bridge. This year’s usage is up more than 11 per cent from last year’s – and revenue is up by $1.6 million, so it’s ahead of the budget forecast for this year,” Snider said.

He attributed that increase to an ad campaign that TransLink’s run since January, pointing out to commuters that it’s cheaper to pay the toll rather than drive around. Once the new Port Mann Bridge opens in December, the free option through Port Coquitlam and over the Pitt River Bridge disappears.

“The [Golden Ears] bridge wouldn’t be there without those tolls,” said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.

He added that the new Port Mann will save motorists an hour a day in travel time.

He also said Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents will benefit from the entire reconstruction project along Hwy. 1 from Langley to Vancouver.

Heavy trucks won’t get any introductory break on the previously announced $9 tolls for the Port Mann, but they will pay half price if they cross at night between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Lighter trucks or cars pulling trailers will pay $4.50 in the introductory period, instead of $6, and they’ll be offered a $225 unlimited monthly pass.

Motorcyclists will pay $1 at first instead of $1.50 and have the option of a $50 monthly pass.

During the first week after the official opening in December, the Port Mann Bridge will be free for everyone, Transportation Minister Mary Polak announced Thursday.

She was at a ceremony recognizing the 10-lane bridge as the widest in the world at 65 metres, earning it a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The $3.3-billion infrastructure project is the largest in B.C. history.

NDP transportation critic Harry Bains, who favoured lowering or eliminating the tolls in the first year since motorists wouldn’t yet have access to the whole bridge, nevertheless called it a “desperate attempt” by the government to shore up votes ahead of the provincial election.

– with files from Jeff Nagel

 

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