LANSING, Mich. — The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) was at a public hearing this week to voice its condemnation of a proposed toll increase for the Blue Water Bridge. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is threatening to increase tolls for northbound commercial vehicles crossing the bridge from US$1.75 per axle to US$3.25/axle
The planned increase would come into effect Jan. 5. The OTA estimates the toll hikes would add about $8 million in additional costs for trucks crossing into Canada using the bridge.
“Timing and approach are all wrong,” said OTA president David Bradley in the weeks leading to the public hearing. “OTA considers it entirely unreasonable and inappropriate that an 85% price hike would be imposed in one fell swoop, with such short notice. Given the current economic times, and the stress that has already been imposed on Michigan-Ontario trade increases of this magnitude are untimely to say the least.”
The public hearings were held at MDOT headquarters in Lansing, Mich. MDOT is defending the increase on the basis that it has the lowest tolls of any of the major bridges, has not increased its tolls for 13 years and wants to bring the tolls in line with those charged on the Canadian side of the bridge, which has higher tolls to begin with. MDOT also needs to pay for improvements to the US plaza and a future re-decking.
While Bradley acknowledged the MDOT’s points, he noted that the tolls at other bridges, including the Canadian side of the Blue Water, had been raised gradually over many years which helped the supply chain deal with them in a more orderly and manageable fashion. Bradley urged MDOT to withdraw its proposal or to at least provide a minimum six month notice so that industry can plan for the change. He also said that carriers using the automatic pre-paid account system should get a discount on whatever the new tolls are – something that the MDOT proposal did not include.
Three hearings were scheduled to be held this week. MDOT also told OTA that it had been receiving written comment from carriers. The OTA is encouraging its members to comment. Concerned carriers and owner/operators are encouraged to submit their own thoughts with the MDOT at: Robert Parsons, Bureau of Transportation Planning, MDOT, P.O. Box 30050, Lansing, MI 48909, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax 517-373-9255. All written comments should be postmarked on or before Dec. 16, 2009.
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