While motorists cruise across the world’s widest bridge, paying only $1.50 per crossing for the first year, Golden Ears Bridge users will be stuck paying twice as much, a fact that doesn’t sit well with the Pitt Meadows mayor.
“I’m not happy with that decision at all,” Deb Walters said Tuesday.
Walters could understand cutting Port Mann Bridge tolls in half (from $3) for a few months with construction not yet completed, but not for the entire year that’s been offered by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“A year, I think that’s a bit much. I don’t think there’s anything fair about that. The idea is to get people to use all of the routes. Everyone’s going to go for the cheapest route.”
Instead, Walters favours region-wide tolling of all bridges, at low rates.
“We have to be fair to the region. I personally would like to see them lower. Charge a buck for all of them.”
Charging a $1 for every crossing of the Ironworkers Memorial or Lions Gate Bridge or Sea to Sky Highway would be affordable, she added.
Walters said the idea has come up at the Mayor’s Council previously, but never seems to get anywhere. The provincial government has said it won’t consider widespread tolling or road pricing for the present.
TransLink said last week it doesn’t plan on changing tolls for the Golden Ears Bridge ($2.95 with a transponder, $4.20 without).
Spokesman Drew Snider said there’s been a steady increase in traffic on the Golden Ears. This year, usage is up more than 11 per cent and revenue has jumped by $1.6 million.
However, Golden Ears Bridge revenues are still forecast to be $38 million below projections over the next three years.
TransLink has also said it won’t offer Golden Ears users a monthly pass, such as will be enjoyed by Port Mann Bridge users, who will pay $75 a month for 50 crossings, during the first year.
For Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton, the fact that there soon will be tolls on the Port Mann Bridge, where there were none before, could help Golden Ears numbers because there’s no longer any free option.
And Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge residents will benefit by the new interchanges along a rebuilt Hwy. 1, without having to pay tolls, (if they use the Pitt Meadows Bridge), he pointed out.
“We’re getting the benefit, even though we’re not seeing the decrease on the Golden Ears [tolls].”
TransLink vice-president Bob Paddon had similar thoughts, and dismissed concerns the toll differential in the first year will be a problem, noting the Port Mann has been free for years.
“We think some toll on the Port Mann can’t hurt us and will, in fact, help us,” he said.
Dalton said the rationale behind lowering the tolls for the Port Mann Bridge is because construction on the bridge won’t be finished until the end of 2013.
The Port Mann Bridge saw its first traffic cross over three eastbound lanes on Tuesday morning. Eight of the 10 lanes will be open by December.
Vehicle decals issued by TReO can be used for crossing both bridges, allowing Golden Ears Bridge users to return their transponders in December (https://www.treo.ca/tolls-and-fees/what-if-i-also-drive-the-golden-ears-bridge/).
– with files from Jeff Nagel