TORONTO, Ont. — Toronto Mayor John Tory announced today at the Toronto Region Board of Trade that he is endorsing a plan to introduce road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.
Tory said a road toll of $2 on the highways would help the city generate an extra $200 million every year, while easing congestion and helping to build more transit projects.
“Tolls are paid in cities around the world,” he assured.
The mayor has been questioned numerous times why he hasn’t taken the money for transit elsewhere, like raising Toronto residents’ property taxes instead of introducing a road toll.
“Property taxes were never meant to finance multi-billion dollar investments in transit and housing,” he said in response, adding that the money generated by the tolls would be used for transit expansion and road repairs only.
“This is what the public wants done. This is the way we get there. Simply put, it’s time to build it,” he said in closing.
According to several news outlets, is estimated that close to 110,000 drivers use the DVP north of Bayview/Bloor and 228,000 drivers use the Gardiner east of Highway 427 each weekday.
Though details are still unclear about when and how the tolls would be imposed on the highway, a staff report filed in September 2015 proposed that drivers could pay a flat fee of $1.25-$3.25, or the roads could adopt a distance-based system where drivers pay between 10-35 cents per kilometer traveled. In both cases, the report stated that trucks would pay double the set amount.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says that Tory would need the province’s approval to go forward with road tolls. He said that he will review all plans put forward “very carefully.”
In a release, the Ontario Trucking Association says its carrier members will not be receptive to paying a toll or fees to repair an existing essential roadway such as the Gardiner Expressway and DVP.
“We estimate the Ontario trucking industry pays over $1.2 billion a year in combined provincial diesel fuel taxes and driver/vehicle registration fees to the provincial government’s coffers. Additionally, the industry adds about a billion dollars a year nationally to the federal governments’ general revenues through the federal excise tax on diesel, with a significant share of that generated by Ontario’s carriers,” said OTA president Stephen Laskowski.
”The industry acknowledges these expressways are owned and operated by the City of Toronto, but governments at all levels need to understand that the road users’ capacity to keep paying more in taxes and fees is reaching a critical point.
In a recent OTA survey, carrier members voiced strong opposition to paying a toll or other forms of fees to reconstruct the Gardiner/DVP. The industry was more inclined to support, as an alternative, an extension of the province’s HoT lane concept on the expressways.
“OTA has long recognized that for new road infrastructure projects to materialize, the industry may have to examine and be willing to accept alternative financing mechanisms to achieve the benefits of new bridges and roadways,” added Laskowski. “The Gardiner and DVP are not new. Their current state of disrepair and the lack of public funds to finance them is symbolic of how we as a nation have failed to implement and budget for future infrastructure requirements, which support every aspect of our economy.”
The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada also expressed its disappointment with today’s announcement.
“The PMTC, from the outset, has voiced their concern that road tolls, if they are to be used, should only be used to fund new infrastructure, today’s announcement flies in the face of that view,” explained PMTC president Mike Millian in a release. “ The Gardiner and Don Valley, if tolled as Tory plans, will leave our members with having to absorb extra costs once again, with no available option to avoid these tolls. Unlike commuters, trucks can’t simply choose to use public transit to avoid these extra costs. Trucks are not utilizing these roads as a choice, they simply have no choice. They must utilize these roads to get the products and services that are required delivered for the use of the consumer. Many of these products, such as medical supplies, home heat, food, to name just a few, are essential. These costs will ultimately have to passed on to consumers through increased prices to the essential products and services that are needed…As these new planned tolls must be approved by the Provincial Government, we are hopeful that Provincial Transport Minster Steven Del Duca will exercise his right to not approve these tolls.”