The provincial government is officially scrapping the tolls on both the Golden Ears Bridge and Port Mann Bridge at the beginning of next month.
As of midnight, on Thursday, August 31, crossings on both bridges will be free for commuters.
“We’re taking immediate action to make life more affordable and get people moving by scrapping unfair tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges,” said BC Premier John Horgan on Friday. “This is just one of many steps we’ll be taking in the coming weeks and months to make life easier for families throughout British Columbia.”
The government said the announcement is expected to save families who regularly have to cross the Fraser River an average $1,500 a year. Commercial drivers averaging one crossing a day will save $4,500 a year or more, they added.
“Many people have been travelling out of their way to avoid tolls because they simply cannot afford them,” said Horgan. “Getting rid of tolls will shorten commute times and clear up other routes, so people can spend less time stuck in traffic and more time with their families.”
In light of the decision, the government “will continue to invest in the roads, bridges and other transportation projects British Columbians need to help people get around,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena.
“Unlike the previous government, we’re not going to pit one region of the province against the other,” said Trevena. “We’re going to deliver on the investments needed to serve families and grow our economy, across B.C. in a way that is fair for all families.”
Asked about repayment of the remaining bridge debt, Horgan said the government would be “transferring debt from the Port Mann onto taxpayer supported debt – which is traditionally how infrastructure has been paid for.”
All told, the removal of the tolls will equal $132 million that taxpayers will be on the hook for: $94 million in Port Mann tolls, and $38 million for the Golden Ears.
“We can manage that within our fiscal framework. It will not have an impact … on our borrowing costs,” Horgan said.
When asked about the possibility of mobility road pricing to help offset costs, Horgan said he is waiting for ideas from the Mayor’s Council on how to proceed on those ideas going forward.
Selina Robinson, the minister for municipal affairs and housing, said the government has worked “very closely with TransLink and the Mayors’ Council to deliver an agreement on Golden Ears that offers relief for families.”
Commuters who have any remaining bills for tolls up to – and including – Thursday, August 31 will still need to pay them. Any outstanding tolls after that date will need to be paid as well. The process for bill payment will remain in place during the transition.
Currently, the toll to cross the Port Mann is: $3.15 for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs; $6.30 for medium-sized vehicles, such as a car with a trailer or a motorhome; and $9.45 for commercial vehicles.
The toll to cross the Golden Ears is: $3.20 to $4.45 for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs; $6.35 to $7.55 for medium-sized vehicles; and $9.45 to $10.70 for commercial vehicles.
While the plan was greeted with fanfare by NDP supporters, BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said he doesn’t support the move and called the plan “reckless.”