If the province pares down the tolls for the new Port Mann Bridge while the Patullo Bridge undergoes repairs, TransLink might as well trim the tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker says it would be a good time to lower the tolls to see if that would increase traffic across the span linking to Surrey and Langley.
Becker, along with Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore and Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, discussed the topic at a recent dinner. Becker followed up with a May 5 letter to both cities, seeking their agreement to unite and lobby the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, as well as TransLink .
Transportation Minister Todd Stone is being urged to reduce or eliminate tolls on the Port Mann Bridge while maintenance work restricts the use of the nearby Pattullo Bridge for months or even years.
Currently, motorists with a Treo decal, good for both bridges, pay $3.05 every time they cross the Golden Ears. That’s due to go up by a nickle on July 15.
For Becker, the tolls on the Golden Ears are impeding traffic to the north side of the Fraser River.
Meanwhile, he says it’s increasing traffic along the Lougheed Highway through Pitt Meadows, as motorists seek to get to Vancouver and Coquitlam using the untolled Pitt River Bridge.
“The region is facing some critical transportation infrastructure decisions with respect to use and costs of infrastructure as it is replaced and tolling is expected to be used to offset the costs of construction,” Becker said in a letter to Read.
“The concern, of course, is the continued increase in traffic on untolled roads as commuters choose travel routes that avoid tolls.”
But he said there are no statistics on that, saying it’s a council initiative.
But logic says, if you toll two bridges, people will use the untolled bridge.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, however, traffic on the eastern part of Lougheed Highway hasn’t increased since the opening of the new tolled Port Mann Bridge in 2012.
In 2010, a daily average of 38,266 vehicles crossed the Mission Bridge in both directions – compared to 38,787 vehicles in 2013.
The bridge connects Abbotsford to the Lougheed Highway.
The Pattullo is supposed to be the free alternative to the Port Mann, but it will become more difficult to use if there are frequent lane closures during next year’s planned $100-million upgrade, said the Surrey Board of Trade.
For 18 months, likely beginning next April 2016, the already heavily congested bridge will be reduced from four lanes to two on weekdays – one in each direction – and heavy trucks will be banned, along with cyclists and pedestrians.
The seismic rehabilitation and deck replacement of the 76-year-old bridge was expected to begin early this year.