The NDP wants to scrap tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, but hasn’t yet explained how to make up for the revenue loss.
NDP leader John Horgan made the announcement Sunday after the Liberals promised to cap toll charges to motorists at $500 a year.
Scrapping the tolls completely would cost TransLink at least $48 million a year. That’s the amount raised by Golden Ears Bridge tolls in 2015 and is used to help pay for financing and upkeep.
In 2016, the Port Mann Bridge hauled in $136 million from tolls, which wasn’t enough to cover borrowing and operating costs.
The Liberals though say removing the tolls from both bridges would cost the government $30 million a year. The party says both bridges bring in $200 million a year in tolls.
Quickpass administers the tolling system for the Golden Ears Bridge. its contract runs until and 2018. Last year, 2016, TransLink paid just more than $7 million to Quickpass for its service.
A TransLink spokesperson said it’s now doing a comprehensive review trying to estimate the impact of tolling changes.
Bob D’Eith, running for the NDP in Maple Ridge-Mission, said an explanation of the costs will be in the party platform, coming out soon.
“What’s happening now is, people are choosing to use non-tolled bridges, which is actually creating more congestion on the bridges that are not tolled,” he added.
Questions such as the cost of paying out the tolling contractor or removing tolling technology still need to be worked out, D’Eith said.
The NDP has always opposed public-private-partnerships, such as the Golden Ears Bridge.
“We have the Sea to Sky Highway, which has no tolls. And you have the Port Mann and the Golden Ears, which have tolls, so how is that fair?”
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read supported the idea. She said on Facebook that “it will mean thousands of dollars in savings for Maple Ridge families.
“People are avoiding the Golden Ears Bridge anyway because of the tolls. This will reduce congestion on the Mary Hill Bypass and that will be most welcome.”
She added the revenue shortfall could be made up by cutting the new Massey Bridge or the new Site C dam being built by B.C. Hydro.
The weekend also saw the Liberals announce a $500 yearly cap on toll charges for bridge users.
Liberal candidate Marc Dalton said his party has costed out that and would reimburse TransLink for the revenue shortage.