Toll-less Golden Ears could ease Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows traffic woes

Toll-less Golden Ears could ease Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows traffic woes

Councillors awaiting word on NDP plan to remove fares

Pitt Meadows Coun. Mike Stark is looking forward to the day the tolls come off the Golden Ears Bridge.

With motorists able to free wheel wherever their accelerator pedal and steering wheel will lead, Stark expects to see a less-congested Lougheed Highway resulting from a toll-free Golden Ears Bridge. Commuters are currently opting for the toll-free Pitt Meadows Bridge, then using the Mary Hill Bypass to get back to Hwy. 1 and head to Vancouver, he said. That’s creating a traffic crush that can last for kilometres.

Stark though says it’s quicker for Vancouver-bound commuters to take the Golden Ears, then cross the Port Mann Bridge.

“Now, with the tolls off, we’ll see, because people will be able to go the way they want with no tolls and we’ll see if there’s an increase in the Golden Ears Bridge.”

The new NPD government promised during the May B.C. election to remove tolls from the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges and NDP MLA Bob D’Eith recently said the tolls would be off soon.

He and Lisa Beare in July both anticipate an announcement this summer.

TransLink in mid-July, boosted Golden Ears Bridge fares up to $3.20 per crossing for a car, possibly the last fare increase drivers will see.

Stark said Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam last year asked the government to give toll discounts for motorists who use both Golden Ears and Port Mann, to encourage people to use the new structures. But that didn’t happen.

“We’ve spent $6 billion on infrastructure for these two bridges and we make it difficult for people to use them,” Stark said.

Stark hoped the toll removal will make life easier for Pitt Meadows commuters also.

“People are travelling through Pitt Meadows every day from the east. Our people can’t get off the Lougheed Highway into Pitt Meadows … until they get to Harris Road, unless they want to get off at Kennedy Road.

“Hopefully, it will alleviate some of the pressures we have in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.”

He also called Metro Vancouver’s transportation system ‘ridiculous.’

“We need rapid transit, a lot of it.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read agreed that during certain times of the day it’s quicker to use the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges.

“Removing the bridge tolls is significant,” because people are driving long distances to avoid tolls. “They’re stuck in log jams all over the place.”

But she’s also paying close attention to the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission that is now studying road tolls or pricing for the region. It will issue a report to TransLink and the Mayor’s Council next spring.

She pressed to get Maple Ridge resident Graham McCargar, with MC Freight Systems, on to the commission.

Read is worried that road pricing could penalize Maple Ridge residents because they face longer commutes. It’s a complex issue and people should give their input, she added.

“I think it needs a lot of study, a lot of thought, a lot of citizen input. Because it will have an impact on affordability in the regions which are currently seen as most affordable,” Read said.

“I’m really concerned about it for our citizens.

“I’m reserving any opinion on mobility pricing, until I see the work of the commission.”