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B.C. approves road tolls for future projects

VICTORIA, B.C. -- The Province of B.C. has approved the use of road tolls, but the government promises it won't go...

VICTORIA, B.C. — The Province of B.C. has approved the use of road tolls, but the government promises it won’t go on a tolling frenzy as a result.

B.C. Transportation Minister, Judith Reid, announced during a cabinet meeting that was broadcast live across B.C., that "I think the tolling opportunities are quire limited, and we have to be aware of that."

Possible toll routes include a second crossing of Okanagan Lake at Kelowna and new bridges in the Lower Mainland that would reduce traffic congestion. The cabinet then came up with an 11-point tolling guideline policy.

The guidelines include provisions ensuring that only major projects that provide significant capacity increases will be eligible for tolling. Also, tolls will only be applied if there is a clear benefit for the road user. As well, tolls will only be permitted if there is a reasonable toll-free alternative available.

"We are committed to opening up British Columbia’s transportation infrastructure to revitalize the economy and create new opportunities across the province," Reid said in a press release following the meeting. "Although we already have tolls, B.C. has never had a clear policy to ensure accountability and protect the public interest where tolling is permitted. Now, for the first time, B.C. has strong, fair, equitable principles to guarantee motorists benefit from the improvements that tolling revenues will fund."

Last fall, the province passed legislation that paves the way for public-private partnerships.

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