In less than a year, a new 10-lane Port Mann Bridge will be in full operation. Once completed, B.C.’s newest piece of public infrastructure will help dramatically reduce traffic congestion for everyone living and working south of the Fraser River.
Sporting a yellow hardhat, former premier Gordon Campbell made it all official on Feb 4, 2009 when he announced at a news conference that a new Port Mann bridge would finally become a reality. After years of lobbying for a new Fraser River crossing, local politicians and citizens heralded the $820 million investment as a godsend.
Similar to the Golden Ears Bridge, the new Port Mann would be constructed as part of an innovative public-private partnership. Campbell was very clear that Metro Vancouver taxpayers would not be on the hook to finance this costly project.
“The toll for the bridge will be exactly as we said it would be. Three dollars on opening day,” said Campbell. “That’s in the contract and that’s what we’ll be having.”
However, as we near opening day for the bridge, an ever-increasing number of politicians from places like Surrey and Langley is voicing concerns. It seems they finally crunched the numbers and discovered that a new toll will end up costing some of their residents $1500 per year.
What I find most interesting about the growing chorus of politicians upset about the $3 toll is the fact it took them so long to pipe up. If they didn’t like the funding model for the new bridge, why didn’t they squawk to the media back in 2009?
Instead of hearing about residents simply paying the modest toll and reaping the benefits of lower fuel costs, we can expect in coming months to hear complaints about the unfairness of our tolling policy.
In fact, the lobbying has already begun to lower the Port Mann toll by implementing a new charge to cross the Lions Gate and Ironworkers Memorial bridges. It’s a proposal that will likely fall on deaf ears on both sides of the legislature in Victoria.
Residents south of the Fraser would garner more sympathy if the provincial government had suddenly sprung a new toll on them from out of the blue. However, in this case, we know this is not how the toll unfolded.
You can’t accuse Gordon Campbell of not being open and transparent on this one – unlike his stance on HST. But that won’t stop people from trying.
- post by Daniel. Read his column each Thursday in 24 Hours.