Friday was the last day of free crossings for the new Port Mann Bridge. Tolls take effect Saturday Dec. 8. The old bridge in the foreground is no longer in use and will be dismantled in 2014.

Final day for toll-free crossings of Port Mann Bridge

TReO customers won't lose out if decals haven't arrived before tolls kick in Saturday

Today’s the last day motorists will be able to cross the Port Mann Bridge for free without being charged a toll.

Introductory half-price tolls of $1.50 on regular vehicles take effect Saturday, while larger trucks pay more.

The tolls also mean traffic distortions are about to become more apparent as some drivers potentially divert to untolled crossings like the Pattullo and Alex Fraser bridges, which may become more congested next week.

But more than 500,000 drivers won’t be out of pocket their own money – at least initially.

They got a credit for 20 free trips by registering with the TReO tolling system by Nov. 30 and that should stagger the bite of tolls.

Almost a third of the registrations happened last week, so many of those drivers may not receive their TReO windshield decals by Saturday.

Officials say those drivers who registered in time will still get the $30 account credit and all applicable discounts. Their cars will be identified by licence plate cameras until the decals are installed.

“Drivers shouldn’t be concerned if they have not received a decal yet,” Transportation Investment Corporation CEO Mike Proudfoot said. “They are on the way. Please install your decal as soon as it arrives. Decals are a key component of an efficient and accurate tolling system, which allows us to keep our costs down and run a lean, efficient operation.”

Drivers who haven’t yet registered with TReO will start paying the full $3 tolls in March. Those who are signed up by then lock in the half-price discount until next Dec. 1, when the half-price discount ends for registered users.

The $30 credits expire May 31.

Drivers who registered as HOV lane users also get a 25 per cent discount when they travel in HOV lanes with two occupants at peak hours – 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

The new bridge officially opened with eight lanes last Saturday.

Traffic flow has been much improved on Highway 1 through Surrey and over the bridge westbound since the extra three lanes opened, although congestion persists in the Coquitlam-Burnaby sections of the freeway where Highway 1 construction continues through 2013.

Phase two of the project includes adding one highway lane in each direction from Brunette Avenue to the Cassiar Tunnel in Vancouver and significant interchange improvements at Gaglardi, Sprott/Kensington, Willingdon, Grandview Highway and Boundary Road.

“There is still more work to do on the project,” Proudfoot said. “When phase two of the project is complete, drivers can expect to save even more time, but in the meantime, crews will still be working nights to widen the highway between Coquitlam and Vancouver. Please drive with caution.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

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