EDITORIAL: We’re not cash cows

Word came out last week that the Pattullo Bridge may not be replaced after all.

The ministry of transportation, which handed over responsibility for the bridge to TransLink more than a decade ago, is taking a second look at TransLink’s plans to replace the 73-year-old bridge. TransLink has already said any replacement bridge would have to be financed by tolls.

While the expertise of the ministry, which has many top-notch people on staff, is welcome, there is a decidedly political taint to this move.

It is no secret that many South Fraser residents, particularly in Surrey and Langley, are very unhappy about the prospect of paying tolls on the new Port Mann Bridge when it opens in about two years. The subject comes up frequently.

The Golden Ears Bridge is tolled, and no one is overly concerned about that. It provides a new level of service that was previously unavailable, and the added convenience is well worth the relatively modest toll charge.

However, once the Port Mann Bridge is tolled, it will be very difficult to travel to the north side of the river from Surrey or Langley without paying a toll. Meanwhile, there are no tolls planned on any other bridges or tunnels in the Lower Mainland. Thus people who live in Surrey or Langley, who have the dubious distinction of having the worst transit service in the Lower Mainland, will pay extra to use their cars every time they cross a bridge.

The Pattullo had been suggested as a “free” alternative, but TransLink can’t replace it for free. Thus the ministry’s decision to study the alternatives seems to be tied directly to the widespread unhappiness about the pending Port Mann tolls.

Both the Liberal and NDP leadership candidates need to make their positions on tolls for the new Port Mann Bridge clear. If tolls are a necessity, then they need to be applied to more Lower Mainland river crossings. This money should go to TransLink to fund increased transit service south of the Fraser, so that people who live here have more transit options available to them.

Ideally, the tolls on the Port Mann will be either reduced dramatically from the proposed rates – which are higher than the Golden Ears – or eliminated from the equation altogether. Langley and Surrey residents must not be treated as cash cows, while other Lower Mainland residents are left to cross bridges for free.

– Black Press

Surrey North Delta Leader