B.C. says goodbye to tolls on two bridges

COQUITLAM, BC – Commercial drivers travelling British Columbia’s Lower Mainland could save up to $4,500 a year beginning September 1, with Premier John Horgan eliminating tolls on Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges.

The government says the eliminated tolls will also save about $1,500 a year for personal passenger vehicles.

The two bridges connect the Coquitlam and Surrey areas across the Fraser River, and are travelled by a combined 161,000 vehicles a day.

“It’s huge news and it’s a decision that will be very welcomed by our members,” says Louise Yako, president and Chief Executive Officer of the BC Trucking Association, referring to the province’s decision to assume the debt and distribute the costs. While tolls helped to expedite the construction of B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway prior to Expo 86, they were dropped once the cost of accelerating the work was covered, Yako notes.

“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.”

Yako agrees that some trucks — particularly dump trucks and other aggregate haulers — were using the Pattulo Bridge to avoid paying tolls. “Owner-operators were clearly trying to avoid the Port Mann Bridge,” she says. The challenge is that the Pattulo Bridge was built to 1950s standards. Even though it has four lanes, the narrow span often saw trucks straddling lane markings, she said. That introduced its own source of congestion.

Currently the toll for commercial vehicles crossing the Port Mann Bridge is $9.45, and $10.70 for the Golden Ears Bridge.

Ironically, the BC Trucking Association wasn’t even calling for the province to eliminate tolls. “What we were calling for was more equity,” Yako says, referring to past calls to spread costs across the tax base. The position was for purely practical reasons. The association didn’t think the government of the day would ever drop the tolls altogether. “Obviously having the toll removed is even better,” she says.

Bills issued for tolls up to the end of August will still need to be paid. The tolling for both bridges will stop at midnight on September 1.

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