Bring on higher road and bridge fees

by Bill Cameron

Like Toronto Mayor John Tory, I like a user-pay system, rather than just taxing the hell out of everybody.

In recent years, some trucking associations have been protesting certain issues in the best interests of their members. I believe, from my position as a much smaller fish in the pond, their good intentions are often misguided.

Initially, toll rates on the Blue Water Bridge rose considerably. Ontario licence fees for heavy trucks did as well. Lobbyists protested the bridge hikes and asked Ontario to reconsider increased licence fees. In New York, the protesting has already started over suggested future increases to tolls on the New York Thruway. My suggestion, while not my typical attitude, is to stop protesting.

Bring on increased tolls and licence costs, with a caveat. Any future protests should insist the bridge authority, governments, or any other such entity show documented proof that revenues from increases will go where they always should have: to improvements and maintenance. Also, a commitment that future increases occur in a structured, scheduled manner, not, as was the case in Ontario, an immediate 60% increase because they seemingly just realized they’re broke.

Is anybody pleased with the condition of our nation’s highways? Improvements cost money. With fewer trucks on the road than prior to 2008, there’s less tax revenue.
Due to the recession, maintenance and rebuilding projects were reduced, so roads are still deteriorating at their typical rate. If higher fees are all it takes to improve road conditions, I’m in. As long as governments pass legislation that directs all revenues to highway improvements. A lack of fiscally responsible, transparent government is the obvious hole in this theory.

Compare the Blue Water Bridge to its nearest neighbor, the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge. Even with increased tolls, the Blue Water is cheaper. The bridge itself is in much better condition.

I rarely cross at the Ambassador. I utterly detest the place. It’s too expensive and seems to take much longer to clear the same number of trucks; this after traversing an unsafe and cluttered ramp system on the US side.

In 20 years of crossing that border, I can count on one hand the number of times all lanes have been open and still have one finger left to wave at the owners. If you want border crossings improved as necessary, again, it requires money. I cross the bridge with plenty of axles and don’t mind the extra few dollars per trip if it means I cross in a timely, efficient, comfortable manner.

Also, if we are legitimately trying to improve border crossings and traffic flow, a single span at each crossing isn’t really wise. Contrary to my typical far-right political views, I think this is one of the rare issues that requires more government oversight.

More privately-owned bridges provide more crossings without dipping into my pocket, but in this instance, we need government oversight and firm, enforceable regulations regarding tolls. This should have been learned with the 407 toll route north of Toronto. When 118 kilometers of road carries the same toll costs as the 497-km stretch of the New York Thruway from Buffalo to Massachusetts, the need for more legislative oversight should be obvious. If companies and individuals are volunteering to be robbed on the 407, it’s just hypocritical to complain of potential toll increases in New York. The money to keep that increasingly declining highway smooth obviously has to come from somewhere.

Our customers are told that you get the quality of service that you pay for. Low-cost trucking services are worth every nickel, as are low-cost roads. My rates regularly increase, so it would be hypocritical to complain of others raising their prices accordingly. So, convince me you’ll spend my money properly – in a mutually beneficial manner – and feel free to dig deeper into my pocket. I’ll just raise freight rates accordingly to equalize it. How about the rest of you?


Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation. Bill can be reached at

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