The NDP government’s cancellation of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges was not unexpected according to Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond.
Also the Finance Critic, she says while it may sound great for commuters on paper, nearly 180 jobs will be lost as a result.
“People were involved in the tolling processes attached to the two bridges. We want to know the details, we want to see how British Columbians are going to be impacted, and my biggest concern is the whole transition of debt to taxpayer-supported and what that does for the bottom line.”
Bond calls Premier John Horgan’s words ironic when speaking of residents not paying for something they don’t use.
“This debt will, in its essence, be shared by all British Columbians. We delivered this government a $2.7 billion surplus, and we want to know how it’s going to be spent. We want to make sure that continues to be the case today and in the future.”
She says she’ll be examining the hard numbers in the days ahead, but adds she’s already heard a number of complaints from across Northern BC.
Horgan had announced on Friday, August 25 the removal of the bridge tolls, ‘making life more affordable.’
According to an information bulletin, removing tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges will cost the Province an additional $132 million for the remainder of this fiscal year ($94 million for Port Mann Bridge and $38 million for Golden Ears Bridge). This includes an estimated $12 million to wind down tolling operations for both bridges.
For the next few years, it will cost an additional $135 million a year to cover lost tolling revenue on the Port Mann Bridge, which includes $25 million that will be saved on an annual basis to no longer have to collect tolls.
Because the Golden Ears Bridge is owned and operated by TransLink, the Province is working with the authority to reach a long-term funding agreement for future years.
“All of these costs will be budgeted and paid for in the annual fiscal plan – with an update coming in early September – in the same way that all other major capital projects are funded, such as expanded highways, new schools and new hospitals,” said the Ministry of Transporation and Infrastructure.
Friday’s announcement will take effect on Friday, September 1, 2017. It will save families who regularly have to cross the Fraser River an average $1,500 a year. Commercial drivers averaging one crossing a day will save $4,500 a year or more.
It is estimated that 121,000 vehicles cross the Port Mann Bridge, with another 40,000 vehicles taking the Golden Ears Bridge each day.
(With files from Kyle Balzer with MYPRINCEGEORGENOW)