Should tolls be placed on all major Metro Vancouver bridges?

The Golden Ears Bridge, one of two bridges in Metro Vancouver that are currently tolled.

As debate rages over whether tolls should be used on the proposed bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel between Richmond and Delta, the BC Trucking Association has its own idea: toll them all.

From the Lions Gate to the Alex Fraser, President Louise Yako says putting tolls on all crossings would be a fairer way of paying for infrastructure upgrades, while stopping any one bridge from becoming clogged.

“The George Massey Tunnel and the Pattullo Bridge, another unresolved funding puzzle, are not the only aging and inadequate crossings in Metro Vancouver,” she wrote.

“We need to discourage major traffic shifts inspired by avoiding tolls and instead equalize the financial burden to pay for large projects…as a bonus, encouraging drivers to take the most direct route will also result in commensurate reductions in emissions and crash risk.”

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Three months ago, the provincial government announced that a 10-lane replacement bridge for the George Massey Tunnel would be tolled, though an exact price hasn’t been set.

READ MORE: George Massey Tunnel replacement will be a 10-lane toll bridge

It’s the same philosophy that guided the Port Mann Bridge replacement. But ever since the $3.3-billion bridge was completed, it has been dogged by lower than expected traffic. Many drivers have decided to use the Pattullo Bridge, causing large traffic backups on New Westminster streets.

READ MORE: Traffic delays coming to the Pattullo Bridge

The Transportation Investment Corporation, which manages the Port Mann project, is budgeting for losses of $309 million over the next three years – though the government says they are still expected to repay the project debt by 2050 with no additional taxpayer support.

Chair of Metro Vancouver and Mayor of Port Coquitlam Greg Moore says it’s an intriguing proposal, but should be part of a larger conversation about dynamic road pricing in the region.

“We said mobility pricing, dynamic mobility pricing around the region is the way to go. One version of mobility pricing is tolling all of the various bridges,” he said.

“If you look around the world, for example, in Singapore they’re doing GPS-based tolling…so there’s different ways to do it. I think the discussion has to happen with all stakeholders to make sure we get it right.”

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The provincial government’s current policy is that there must a free alternative to get around a tolled bridge – but when asked by Global News to directly respond to the Trucking Association’s proposal, they demurred.

“Everyone is aware of the vibrant debate about Metro Vancouver’s transportation future,” said Lisanne Bowness, senior public affairs officer for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“These discussions are important and welcome as we move forward with constructing the new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel.”

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