Annacis workers fear ‘traffic hell on Earth’ from Massey tolls

Province urged to embark on toll policy reform soon, charge to cross Alex Fraser and all other Metro Vancouver bridges

Heather Bannah and her son Bruce

If the Alex Fraser Bridge becomes Metro Vancouver’s last free crossing of the Fraser River as bridge tolls proliferate, Highway 91 drivers fear they will face gridlock beyond comprehension.

And some of them won’t have a choice.

Cloverdale mom Heather Bannah works as a lab assistant on Annacis Island – beneath the bridge –and says there is no other route that she and hundreds of other Annacis workers could logically take.

So Bannah wasn’t happy to hear Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s announcement last month that the new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel will be tolled.

“I groaned,” she said. “We’re probably looking at tripling the amount of time to get across that bridge.”

Bannah says Alex Fraser traffic got much worse after the Port Mann Bridge was tolled.

And the heavier volumes affect local traffic on Annacis, because a growing number of drivers coming from Richmond short cut around the main bridge line by taking the long Annacis off-ramp, turning around on the island and then rejoining Highway 91.

She can’t imagine how much worse it will get if thousands of additional drivers who normally take Highway 99 and the Massey Tunnel instead switch to the Alex Fraser to avoid paying tolls.

“Everyone’s going to use it,” she said, adding many other workers on Annacis who live in Surrey and Langley are also worried.

“I think I will need to buy a boat,” added Surrey resident Chris McArdle, who also works on Annacis. “Annacis Island is going to truly be traffic hell on Earth.”

TransLink expects to charge tolls on the new Pattullo Bridge when its replacement opens.

Stone has suggested that after tolling the Massey and Pattullo, tolls might have to be added at the Alex Fraser as well, but the government has yet to specifically commit to toll reform or outline how it might work.

So the B.C. Trucking Association has given Stone a nudge, urging the province to begin discussing the idea more openly.

RELATED: Truckers propose answer to transportation funding riddle

“We have concern that we’re just going to be causing unnecessary congestion by tolling four out of the five crossings and stopping at that,” said BCTA president Louise Yako.

That scenario would cause “considerable problems” for businesses on Annacis Island, which she said is a major hub for trucking companies and home to various industries and warehouses.

“Conceptually, what we’re talking about is tolling all of the crossings,” Yako said. “The Second Narrows, the Lions Gate, Oak Street, Granville, Burrard – all of them. So that everyone pays a little bit to finance the large infrastructure projects that we all agree are necessary.”

All of the region’s bridges will eventually need to be rehabilitated, rebuilt or expanded, Yako argues.

She won’t say what she thinks is an appropriate toll amount for currently untolled bridges, adding that  number will depend on a detailed accounting of the operating costs of the current transportation network and estimates of the need for future capital projects.

But Yako suggested tolls be put on those crossings soon – before the new Massey bridge opens – rather than waiting for the completion of that project in 2022.

She noted the harm caused by congestion is not limited to travel time delays.

“When people drive further than they have to they’re producing additional emissions that are unnecessary and the further someone drives the greater the safety risk of a crash.”

‘Do it right now’

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson also supports tolls on all crossings at much lower rates – the sooner the better.

“I’d do it right now,” Jackson said, adding “people would understand” if blanket tolls were low enough.

“People would take a direct route rather than going around to save on the toll,” she said. “It would take the pressure off a lot of people who are now scrambling around taking longer routes to save on paying a toll.”

Other mayors have proposed harmonized bridge tolling before and it was recommended as a potential pilot project for road pricing last fall by an economic think tank.

Jackson hopes motorists support the idea by providing feedback to the province in the Massey replacement consultations, which wrap up Jan. 28.

New Westminster Coun. Patrick Johnstone said cutting the Port Mann toll in half and putting the same charge on the Pattullo Bridge would likely generate the same revenue as the Port Mann now does and greatly improve congestion in New Westminster and north Surrey, where many vehicles converge to take the free Pattullo.

“That would eliminate the traffic diversion problems and it would give the truckers an opportunity to use the freeway they want to use without being priced out of using it,” Johnstone said.

Port Mann leakage

Neither of the existing two toll bridges – the Port Mann and Golden Ears – are making as much money as was originally forecast, casting doubt on the debt repayment schedules.

“You’re having a revenue leak right now on the Port Mann – 20,000 people are just not showing up on the Port Mann, they’re showing up on the Pattullo instead,” Johnstone said.

He believes road pricing is “inevitable” and a move as soon as possible to consistent tolling along the Fraser could save drivers tremendous amounts of time.

So far Premier Christy Clark has shown little interest in the idea.

Johnstone said it might also undermine her government’s plan for the $3.5-billion Massey replacement.

“Ultimately, if you toll the tunnel and all the crossings on the Fraser, we would probably find the traffic demand for the tunnel would go away and we would no longer require an expensive bridge to replace it,” he said. “The premier has to figure out how to pay for this infrastructure she wants to build.”

Just Posted

Findlay to be next CPC candidate for South Surrey-White Rock

Former cabinet minister lost 2017 election to Liberal Gordie Hogg

Teenage girl, 17, accused of stabbing girl, 16, in Surrey

Victim’s injuries not life-threatening

Fledgling Surrey City Orchestra tunes up for showcase concert Friday

Conductor Stuart Martin’s four-year goal is to build a core group of about 60 Surrey-based musicians

Fraser Health to buy two private MRI clinics in Surrey, Abbotsford

New clinics will provide 2,000 more MRIs by fiscal year-end

Safe Surrey Coalition opposes removing any property from ALR

McCallum and Pettigrew take issue with a Port Kells proposal to exclude property from the Agricultural Land Reserve

Video: Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as one would expect of the team that gave us the “Broad Street Bullies,” he’s far from cuddly.

Harvest Moon to light up B.C. skies with an ‘autumn hue’

It’s the first moon after the autumn equinox

Fraser River First Nations say they aren’t getting their share of sockeye salmon

Shortage is a result of decisions made by DFO, not a shortage of sockeye, complaint says

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

Appeal pipeline decision but consult Indigenous communities, Scheer says

The federal appeals court halted the Trans Mountain expansion last month

B.C. electric vehicle subsidy fund drains faster than expected

Province adds another $10 million to incentive fund

Fraser Valley horse trainer suing feed mill after death of five animals

Alicia Harper seeking $500,000 to $1 million in losses and damages from Hi-Pro Feeds

Most Read