More tolls flow to TransLink as Golden Ears Bridge use rises

Toll revenue up $5 million but same amount to be spent replacing obsolete tolling equipment

More drivers were willing to pay to cross the Golden Ears Bridge in 2015.

TransLink reported a more than 15 per cent increase in bridge tolls collected there for the first nine months of the year.

The transportation authority is now forecasting it will collect $48.7 million in Golden Ears tolls for all of 2015, up nearly $5.2 million from what it budgeted, and it anticipates further growth of 4.1 per cent in 2016.

The toll was increased in July to $3.10 per crossing for users with the TReO decal ($4.35 for unregistered users) and a similar increase for inflation is expected in 2016.

Meanwhile, the tolling equipment at the Golden Ears is slated for replacement at a cost of $5 million in 2016 even though the bridge is only six and a half years old. TransLink’s capital budget cites “obsolescence and end of service life” for the need to replace the roadside technology and back office systems.

Growth in traffic over the bridge in part reflects an increase in driving in general within Metro Vancouver as well as a rise in vehicles purchased, according to TransLink.

That also helped boost TransLink’s take from its 17-cent-a-litre gas tax – that was up about $8 million or 3.1 per cent in the first nine months of the year.

TransLink is benefitted from lower fuel and power costs and it projects fuel savings will increase in 2016 due to lower diesel prices and increased use of natural gas buses.

TransLink also plans to spend $900,000 in 2016 to study mobility pricing.

The technical research could lead to an assessment of options such as charging tolls at more crossings or per kilometre road use fees.

The province has indicated some form of bridge tolling reform will be necessary if both the Massey Tunnel and Pattullo Bridge replacements end up tolled.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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