COLUMN: A tolling challenge

For B.C. grow economically, the transportation system has to work – and that's an issue in Surrey.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone may get to know Surrey quite well in the next year or so.

Many of the challenges that are on his plate are directly connected to the city and the South Fraser region. He acknowledged as much when he appeared at the Surrey Board of Trade a week ago, and announced that the province’s tolling policy would be reviewed.

The tolling policy was adopted 10 years ago by the B.C. Liberal government in its first term. It states that tolls can be applied to new projects, as long as there are alternative free routes available to drivers.

In fact, the policy really goes back to the Social Credit government of Bill Bennett, when the Coquihalla Highway was opened. The highway was rushed to completion in 1986, in time for Expo 86, and a toll was applied because of excessive costs. But there was a free route available – via the Fraser Canyon.

The BC Liberals have only applied this policy to the Port Mann Bridge. While many people associate the tolled Golden Ears Bridge with the province, in fact it is a TransLink project and the province did not contribute to its cost.

However, there is talk of tolling the replacement bridge at Deas Island, which would mean three tolled crossings from South Fraser municipalities to the north side of the Fraser. At the same time, there are no tolls between Vancouver and the North Shore, or on the Sea to Sky Highway, which was extensively rebuilt after the tolling policy was adopted.

In December, the full tolls for the Port Mann kick in – $3 per vehicle registered with TrEO. That means that people who commute via the bridge will be paying $30 per week, or $120 per month to get to and from work.

People in Surrey or Delta can use the Alex Fraser Bridge or the Pattullo Bridge as an alternative. The Alex Fraser is jammed during every rush hour, and the Pattullo is not only jammed but downright dangerous.

TransLink is eyeing  additional source of revenue. One of the most talked-about is a car tax, but there could be several other taxes applied as well.

Stone is in the midst of trying to finalize details about a TransLink referendum which will likely be held in conjunction with November’s municipal elections.

One option that South Fraser mayors have pushed for is regional road tolling. That would require the change to the tolling policy that Stone is talking about. It would likely involve tolls on each river crossing, likely in the range of 50 cents to $1.

While this policy naturally isn’t popular in Vancouver or Burnaby, it is one that makes sense when it comes to raising funds for TransLink and being fair to all.

And expansion of bus service in Surrey, Delta and White Rock isn’t forthcoming until TransLink can become more stable financially. For that to happen, Stone has to act.

He’s a new minister with a challenging portfolio, one that encompasses the entire province. But for B.C. to continue to grow economically, the transportation system has to work. In this area, there remains much to be done.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP recover $80,000 worth of stolen property

Police found the property after executing two search warrants in Newton

White Rock approves scaled-up Festival of Lights for 2020

Event to run for nearly 60 days, and expand from the white rock to Oxford Street

White Rock to encourage Uber, Lyft to operate in city

South Surrey and White Rock are without ride-hailing services, for now

Annual Battle of the Badges hockey game to combat bullying in Delta schools

This year’s Battle of the Badges takes place at Sungod Arena on Pink Shirt Day (Wednesday, Feb. 26)

Trains through White Rock, Surrey could be affected by rail blockades

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

VIDEO: Giants win 10th straight on home ice in Langley

Family Day was about spending time with the fans and dazzling them with a 3-2 victory over Seattle

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

Most Read