A new survey has found that most residents in Metro Vancouver support some form of bridge tolling in the region to help cover the construction cost of new transportation infrastructure.
Nearly six in 10 residents in the region support the simple concept of tolling any of Metro Vancouver’s bridges, according to a recent survey by Mustel Group. Support was highest within the City of Vancouver with 67% supporting tolls, more than the 51% for respondents from Surrey, Delta, and Langley – the areas that are most likely to benefit from planned new bridge infrastructure.
However, the North Shore and Richmond and Tsawwassen had the lowest support at 13% and 18%, respectively.
In a separate question, when respondents were given more context on how revenue from tolls could be used to pay for the cost of replacing or upgrading old bridges like the plan for the Port Mann Bridge or a new bridge like the Golden Ears Bridge, support for tolling became split with 47% supporting tolls on all bridges and 38% supporting tolls on only new bridges.
The results from this second question were particularly telling as the respondents who were furthest away from the planned new crossings were least supportive of sharing the regional burden of the construction costs.
Residents in Vancouver and the North Shore were more supportive of tolling only new bridges as they unlikely do not want to pay for new tolls to use the existing Lions Gate Bridge and Ironworkers Second Narrows Memorial Bridge:
In contrast, other suburban municipalities closer to the new planned crossings had reversed opinions:
Over the last few months, the idea of regional bridge tolling has been given a higher priority by the Mayors’ Council governing TransLink in lieu of the 0.5% regional sales tax that would have been introduced had last year’s transit plebiscite been successful.
A number of major transportation projects by TransLink that include expanding bus service, extending the Millennium Line under West Broadway, building light rail in Surrey, and building a new replacement four-lane Pattullo Bridge depend on finding new revenues to cover the public transit authority’s share of the costs.
But those projects could still be nearly a decade away, and changes could be triggered by the provincial government’s plan to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a new 10-lane suspension bridge supported by the widening of three kilometres of Highway 99 and the construction of new interchanges.
The new $3.5-billion crossing project between Richmond and Delta will be partially funded by road tolls, but that has municipal governments and some users concerned that it will turn the nearby Alex Fraser Bridge into a major bottleneck.
A provincial government analysis found that if the new Massey Tunnel replacement remains untolled, traffic on the already-congested Alex Fraser Bridge will increase from 107,000 vehicles per day today to 140,000 vehicles per day by 2045.
Construction on the new Massey crossing is expected to begin in 2017 for a completion in 2022.