Transportation Minister Todd Stone speaking outside a Surrey Board of Trade meeting Thursday.

Transport minister opens door to bridge toll reform (with video)

'Issue of fairness' if Pattullo, Massey bridges also tolled, says Todd Stone



Transportation Minister Todd Stone is pledging to review B.C.’s provincial tolling policy that currently blocks tolls on existing roads and bridges, adding he’s concerned about the unfair proliferation of tolled crossings of the Fraser River in Metro Vancouver.

Stone isn’t yet saying if he’s ready to support road pricing, which Metro mayors want to pursue to help fund TransLink, or perhaps small tolls on all the region’s bridges – an idea repeatedly voiced by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

But any tolling reform would first require the province to alter the policy, which allows tolls to be applied only to new infrastructure, and only when there’s a reasonable free alternative for motorists who don’t want to pay.

That proviso has drawn scorn from drivers in Surrey, who now pay to cross the Port Mann Bridge, in addition to the Golden Ears Bridge, and must divert to the aging Pattullo Bridge to avoid paying.

“Our tolling policy is over 10 years old,” Stone told Surrey Board of Trade members Thursday, and acknowledged that the Pattullo Bridge and Massey Tunnel could both be replaced with toll bridges as well.

“You start looking at the crossings at that point that potentially could have tolls on and to me this then becomes an issue of fairness and equity for the hard-working people of South of the Fraser.”

He said the province would face “pretty big questions” about the validity of the policy if both the Pattullo and Massey crossings are also tolled, leaving the Alex Fraser as the only free crossing.

Stone also told the business audience he expects to officially open the full 40-kilometre $1.26-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road before Christmas.

Stone sidestepped questions on whether light rail or SkyTrain technology should be used to extend rapid transit in Surrey.

The minister had no answers on what the referendum question will be or when the vote will take place, except that he hopes to work all that out with the mayors “very soon.”

“All of us have an interest in making sure this transit referendum succeeds,” he told the business leaders, adding road congestion costs the region $1.5 billion a year.

He said he wants the costs of the referendum minimized, and noted the price tag changes depending on whether or not the plebiscite is conducted with the 2014 municipal elections and whether it’s a conventional vote or a mail-in ballot.

Any new funding sources going to referendum must be affordable for voters, Stone added.

Many mayors and other observers have said they fear voters will shoot down any higher taxes for TransLink, leaving the region mired in worsening gridlock.

But Stone countered that 60 other jurisdictions in North America have held transit improvement votes since 2012 and three quarters of them have approved higher taxes.

The key to success, he said, is a very clear compelling vision, a large coalition of supporters, a simple specific question and usually just one funding source.

NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena said the referendum strategy is wrong-headed and the government should instead give the mayors’ council the power and responsibility to raise the money TransLink needs.

“You don’t go to referendum for every question, you elect representatives to answer them,” Trevena said. “To be turning around to the people every day and saying we’re going to have a referendum on this is American-style politics, it’s not our style of politics.”

Just Posted

Burrards lose in Victoria

Maple Ridge WLA squad hosts Salmonbellies on Sunday

UPDATE: Multiple fires along the railway tracks in Pitt Meadows

Firefighters asking CP rail to close tracks

Maple Ridge coaches and players on Team BC

Heading to California tournament with 15U team

Maple Ridge woman reported missing now located

Police have spoken with Karen Gorrie, reported missing in May

Golden Ears Bridge at 10: Community had called for a crossing for decades

From nothing, to the Albion Ferry, to the bridge was a long wait

Dog at Maple Ridge SPCA needs spinal surgery

Miniature pinscher has painful condition known as Wobbler Syndrome.

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Metro Vancouver’s air quality could be the worst yet this wildfire season

As wildfire season approached, Metro Vancouver experts predict the air will be an issue for many

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

Most Read