Transportation Minister Todd Stone speaking outside a Surrey Board of Trade meeting Thursday.

Transport minister opens door to bridge toll reform (with video)

'Issue of fairness' if Pattullo, Massey bridges also tolled, says Todd Stone



Transportation Minister Todd Stone is pledging to review B.C.’s provincial tolling policy that currently blocks tolls on existing roads and bridges, adding he’s concerned about the unfair proliferation of tolled crossings of the Fraser River in Metro Vancouver.

Stone isn’t yet saying if he’s ready to support road pricing, which Metro mayors want to pursue to help fund TransLink, or perhaps small tolls on all the region’s bridges – an idea repeatedly voiced by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

But any tolling reform would first require the province to alter the policy, which allows tolls to be applied only to new infrastructure, and only when there’s a reasonable free alternative for motorists who don’t want to pay.

That proviso has drawn scorn from drivers in Surrey, who now pay to cross the Port Mann Bridge, in addition to the Golden Ears Bridge, and must divert to the aging Pattullo Bridge to avoid paying.

“Our tolling policy is over 10 years old,” Stone told Surrey Board of Trade members Thursday, and acknowledged that the Pattullo Bridge and Massey Tunnel could both be replaced with toll bridges as well.

“You start looking at the crossings at that point that potentially could have tolls on and to me this then becomes an issue of fairness and equity for the hard-working people of South of the Fraser.”

He said the province would face “pretty big questions” about the validity of the policy if both the Pattullo and Massey crossings are also tolled, leaving the Alex Fraser as the only free crossing.

Stone also told the business audience he expects to officially open the full 40-kilometre $1.26-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road before Christmas.

Stone sidestepped questions on whether light rail or SkyTrain technology should be used to extend rapid transit in Surrey.

The minister had no answers on what the referendum question will be or when the vote will take place, except that he hopes to work all that out with the mayors “very soon.”

“All of us have an interest in making sure this transit referendum succeeds,” he told the business leaders, adding road congestion costs the region $1.5 billion a year.

He said he wants the costs of the referendum minimized, and noted the price tag changes depending on whether or not the plebiscite is conducted with the 2014 municipal elections and whether it’s a conventional vote or a mail-in ballot.

Any new funding sources going to referendum must be affordable for voters, Stone added.

Many mayors and other observers have said they fear voters will shoot down any higher taxes for TransLink, leaving the region mired in worsening gridlock.

But Stone countered that 60 other jurisdictions in North America have held transit improvement votes since 2012 and three quarters of them have approved higher taxes.

The key to success, he said, is a very clear compelling vision, a large coalition of supporters, a simple specific question and usually just one funding source.

NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena said the referendum strategy is wrong-headed and the government should instead give the mayors’ council the power and responsibility to raise the money TransLink needs.

“You don’t go to referendum for every question, you elect representatives to answer them,” Trevena said. “To be turning around to the people every day and saying we’re going to have a referendum on this is American-style politics, it’s not our style of politics.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey boy, 11, hopes to raise $3,000 for Sources – and be Prime Minister

White Rock Coldest Night of the Year event to take place Feb. 22

Recharged Sharks aim for playoffs after ‘well-earned’ break

Bayside rugby club mixes youth with returning veterans in quest for men’s Div. 1 title

Pedestrian fatality in Surrey

Police are investigating at 183 Street and Highway 10

Spring is looming – what are you most looking forward to?

Spring is looming – what are you most looking forward to?… Continue reading

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

B.C. man released from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Because Spencer Fehrenbacher has American citzensip, he was evacuated by the U.S.

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Most Read