Drivers in the Lower Mainland of B.C. soon will be paying less to get around as the provincial government is eliminating tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges in time for the Labour Day weekend.
The announcement was made by B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan on August 25.The tolls will be gone effective September 1. Currently, the toll to cross the Port Mann is $3.15 for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs, $6.30 for medium-sized vehicles, e.g., 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.
Bills for tolls up to and including Augusst 31, 2017, will still need to be paid. The process for bill payment will remain in place during the transition. The tolling for both bridges will stop at midnight on August 31, 2017.
“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 Horgan. “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 announcement delivers on the premier’s commitment to put an end to the previous government’s bridge tolls. It will 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.
Each day, approximately 121,000 vehicles cross the Port Mann Bridge, with another 40,000 vehicles taking the Golden Ears Bridge. In addition to the costs borne by commuters, the tolls increased congestion along other transportation corridors.
“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.”
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena says the government will continue to invest in the roads, bridges and other transportation projects British Columbians need to help people get around – without unfairly hitting some families and businesses with tolls.
“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.”
“We have worked very closely with TransLink and the Mayors’ Council to deliver an agreement on Golden Ears that offers relief for families,” said Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson. “The toll removal on the Port Mann Bridge and the Golden Ears Bridge will make life more affordable for drivers who cross these bridges every day, and it will help improve traffic flow on other bridges.”
The Port Mann Bridge was opened in 2012 at a cost of $3.3 billion. Since that time, annual operating costs have outpaced toll revenue and the total debt for the bridge has increased to $3.6 billion. Similarly the Golden Ears Bridge was built and financed for just over $900 million when it opened in 2009. Its total debt is now at $1.1 billion.
Removing tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges will cost the Province an additional $132 million for the remainder of this fiscal year ($94 million for Port Mann Bridge and $38 million for Golden Ears Bridge). This includes an estimated $12 million to wind down tolling operations for both bridges.
For the next few years, it will cost an additional $135 million a year to cover lost tolling revenue on the Port Mann Bridge, which includes $25 million that will be saved on an annual basis to no longer have to collect tolls.
Because the Golden Ears Bridge is owned and operated by TransLink, the Province is working with the authority to reach a long-term funding agreement for future years.
All of these costs will be budgeted and paid for in the annual fiscal plan – with an update coming in early September – in the same way that all other major capital projects are funded, such as expanded highways, new schools and new hospitals.
For the Port Mann Bridge, that means the government will report the debt as taxpayer-supported in its books, addressing concerns raised by the auditor general, and consistent with how all other major capital projects in British Columbia are funded.