Mixed support for toll on 10-lane bridge to replace George Massey Tunnel

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      Metro Vancouver residents generally support tolling a new bridge across the Fraser River.

      Results of a public consultation by the B.C. provincial government on its plan to fund a 10-lane bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel through user fees indicated that most participants agree on the idea.

      However, results also showed that many suggested that “tolling should be applied in the context of a regional tolling policy”.

      “Vancouver residents were more likely than residents of other areas to indicate support for tolls, while Richmond residents were more likely to suggest tolling of all bridges at a lower rate and Delta residents were more likely to oppose tolling,” according to the consultation report released Wednesday (March 30).

      In December last year, the province announced plans to decommission the tunnel connecting Richmond and Delta.

      Construction of a new bridge estimated to cost $3.5 billion is anticipated to start in 2017.

      According to the consultation results, about 26 percent of respondents from Delta indicated that they don’t want a tolled bridge.

      Independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington expressed concern that tolling will “create inequity for residents south of the Fraser River”.

      Huntington suggested “consultation on a region-wide tolling system”.

      The Surrey Board of Trade recommended “mobility pricing as the preferred option for funding future infrastructure and transit projects”.

      The board also suggested that “governments work toward a coordinated regional tolling policy”.

      A new Pattullo Bridge connecting Surrey and New Westminster will a tolled crossing.

      TransLink indicated support to toll the bridge, indicating that it is “consistent” with the regional transportation strategy, and the vision laid out by mayors in Metro Vancouver.

      The B.C. Trucking Association recommended tolling “all bridge crossings as a move towards mobility pricing and to avoid traffic diversion”.

      The George Massey Tunnel carries an average of 80,000 vehicles daily.

      In its project definition report last year, the province stated that “a new tolled bridge bridge would result in lower growth in traffic over time, as compared with an untolled crossing”.

      “The new bridge is expected to provide an attractive alternative to the congested Alex Fraser Bridge, particularly during peak periods,” the document read. “Outside of peak periods, some people may divert to the Alex Fraser Bridge to avoid paying the toll. This could result in a reduction in total volumes on the new bridge on evenings and weekends. That’s the experience from other tolled crossings, and it’s what happened on the Port Mann Bridge as well.”

      The report continued: “On the new Port Mann crossing overall traffic volumes initially dropped with the introduction of tolls, but rush-hour traffic volumes increased by more than 15 per cent.”

      The document added: “It took two years for traffic to stabilize and for drivers to return to Port Mann, and now traffic volumes are growing steadily.”