The Pattullo Bridge. (File photo)

The Pattullo Bridge. (File photo)

Pattullo Bridge funding on Surrey mayor’s radar after tolls axed

‘That is going to be a serious discussion over the coming months,’ Linda Hepner says of Patullo funding

Mayor Linda Hepner is pleased the “burdensome” and “punitive” tolls for people South of the Fraser have been removed, she said it leaves unanswered questions about how the new Pattullo Bridge will be paid for.

The bridge’s replacement was supposed to be paid by tolls.

But that was before Premier John Horgan announced Friday (Aug. 25) that tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ear bridges will be axed as of Sept. 1, making good on a campaign promise.

“That is going to be a serious discussion over the coming months,” Hepner told Black Press just after the announcement. “So we will have to look to the province about how we’re going to stay whole in that respect. All that has yet to be addressed.”

Though, she noted the elimination of bridge tolls will be good for regional businesses and help even out traffic flow.

Shortly after Friday’s announcement, Surrey Board of Trade issued a press release saying it supported the NDP government’s announcement to eliminate the tolls, but the group is calling for mobility pricing to be considered.

“The (board) understands the B.C. government’s move to eliminate the tolls,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade. “The focus now needs to be on how to fund the present and future transit and transportation infrastructure needs for Metro Vancouver. Mobility pricing is an option that needs to be explored.”

Meantime, Green party leader Andrew Weaver doesn’t support the move to remove tolls and called it “reckless.”

“There is no question that the affordability crisis facing so many British Columbians is a significant concern,” said Weaver, whose party formed an alliance with the NDP to defeat Christy Clark and the Liberals after this past May’s provincial election. “However, this policy is high cost and low impact. There are lots of good, high return-on-investments decisions that government can make, such as education, student housing and child care. It is disappointing that the first major measure that this government has taken to make life more affordable for British Columbians will add billions of dollars to taxpayer-supported debt. Moreover, making such a massive addition to our debt risks raising interest on all debt, which ultimately prevents government from being able to invest more in important social programs.”

Horgan, along with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson, said removing tolls will make life more affordable for many people in the Lower Mainland.

It’s estimated to save families who regularly have to cross the Fraser River an average $1,500 a year and commercial drivers averaging one crossing a day will save $4,500 a year or more.

“We’re taking immediate action to make life more affordable and get people moving by scrapping unfair tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges,” said Horgan.

“You shouldn’t have to pay tolls based on where you live…. This is about fairness.”

Each day, an estimated 121,000 vehicles cross the Port Mann Bridge, with another 40,000 vehicles taking the Golden Ears Bridge.

amy.reid@ surreynowleader.com