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UPDATE: Maple Ridge MLAs say announcement about tolls this summer

NDP campaigned on cutting tolls

Motorists saw their Golden Ears Bridge toll charges bumped by a nickle on July 15, resulting in a new fare of $3.20 per crossing for cars with TReO decals.

But it could be the last hike they pay, because new NDP Premier John Horgan has said he’ll axe the tolls, both on the Golden Ears and the new Port Mann Bridge.

A definite date for removing them hasn’t yet been given, but a plan spelling out how that will be done will be announced before the end of the summer.

“The tolls are going to come off, as we’ve always said, and then there will be a study to figure out how we’re going to pay for basically all the costs of transit,” said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith.

“We’re excited about this announcement,” added Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare. She recently talked to a woman who may have to quit her job because the woman can’t afford to renew her insurance because she’s got such a large bridge toll bill.

“We’re looking forward to this being eliminated and it being fair for families across the province,” Beare said.

It’s part of trying to make things more affordable, said D’Eith.

Horgan campaigned on removing tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges completely during the May election, while the Liberals said they’d cap yearly toll charges for motorists at $500.

Former Liberal MLA Doug Bing, defeated by Beare in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, said the New Democrats should be taken at their word, that they’ll do what they promised.

“They said they’d get rid of the tolls and we haven’t heard anything otherwise, so I assume that’s going to happen,” Bing said.

If tolls are removed, TransLink would still have to find a way to pay the contractor who built the bridge under a public-private-partnership.

When it comes to the Port Mann, Bing said the cost of the bridge would be added to the provincial debt.

That would take a lot of paperwork, but it could be done, he added.

On the plus side, a non-tolled Golden Ears Bridge could help boost business and growth in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

“Obviously, it takes away a disincentive. So I think, in the long-term, that should have a positive effect on the community.”

Bing agreed that road pricing, or road tolls, would be needed to replace the toll revenue. But sees the tolls coming off before road pricing is implemented.

Metro Vancouver is currently studying the issue of road pricing.

Somehow, those bridges have to be paid for, Bing added.

Under the new rates, small trucks with transponders or decals pay $6.35 per crossing, a 10-cent increase, while big trucks pay $9.45, an increase of 15 cents.