There are renewed calls in Metro Vancouver to toll all bridges and tunnels in the region in an effort to raise funds for road and public transit infrastructure projects and make road pricing more equitable.
The Surrey Board of Trade says the results of a survey sent to its 6,000 business members indicates that there is clear support for regional road pricing. A majority of 60 per cent said they support adding tolls to existing infrastructure to support the construction of new infrastructure and maintenance costs.
Another 34.5 per cent are against tolls on existing infrastructure while 5.5 per cent are not concerned about any new tolls.
Currently, only new bridges in the region – namely the Golden Ears Bridge and the new Port Mann Bridge – are tolled as part of the strategy to cover bridge construction and annual operational costs. But with untolled crossing alternatives nearby, planners are having a difficult time with forecasting user levels and annual revenues.
This is particularly the case for the new Port Mann Bridge, with drivers avoiding the new 10-lane crossing and opting for the untolled four-lane crossing to New Westminster. Since tolls on the Port Mann Bridge came into effect, traffic has increased significantly on the Patullo Bridge.
To date, both of the two new tolled crossings are falling short of user and revenue targets, but blanket tolling on all of the region’s crossings could eliminate the problem of driver’s avoiding tolls.
“Coordinated regional planning for infrastructure and tolling policy is desperately needed to ensure that no area is unduly penalized by unequal tolling practices,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, in a statement.
“The movement of goods and services will be severely impacted when business and commuters are driven to use the only non-tolled options because the alternative is too expensive for small business bottom lines and average family budgets.”
Business plans involving tolling have also been proposed for TransLink’s $1-billion Pattullo Bridge replacement and the Ministry of Transportation’s $3.5-billion George Massey Tunnel replacement. According to the provincial government’s Project Definition Report for the George Massey Tunnel replacement, traffic on the nearby Alex Fraser Bridge could rise by 15 per cent if the alternative crossing remains untolled.
Following last year’s ‘No’ vote in the transit plebiscite, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council decided to explore how road pricing through tolls could potentially raise much-needed revenue to help fund public transit projects. However, TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender warned that such a move would lead to another referendum to ask permission from voters.