Letters to the Editor

Tolls are needed all along Highway 1 project

Editor: Re : “We Say – Discriminatory Tolls,” (The Times,  Jan. 9).

I just about fell out of my chair reading your editorial concerning the $3 toll on the Port Mann.

For the first time, I have seen a real black and white comment on what to me, is the essence of the debate on tolling the Port Mann Highway 1 (PMH1) project. It is simply unfair that drivers crossing the Fraser River are the only ones paying for the Highway 1 rebuilding from 1st Ave. in Vancouver to 200 St. in Langley.

The project’s mandate (see below) is the cost of 37 kilometres of new infrastructure (including the bridge) will be recovered through tolls. I cannot believe that a journalist hasn’t raised the question in a press conference, or a columnist or talk show host hasn’t provoked a debate on the true issue of the Port Mann tolling.

These excerpts from the Transportation Investments (TI) Corp. website , which can be found at http://www.pmh1project.com/Pages/default.aspx.

“The Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project (PMH1 Project) includes construction of a new 10-lane Port Mann Bridge, 37 kilometres of highway widening from Vancouver to Langley, including 30 kilometres of new HOV lanes, and the replacement of nine highway interchanges. These improvements will significantly reduce congestion and travel times along the Lower Mainland’s busiest and most congested highway.”

At http://www.pmh1project.com/info-centre/faq/Pages/Project-Cost-Timing.aspx is the following statement:

“The total cost to build the PMH1 Project, including construction, operations and maintenance, rehabilitation and interest, will be approximately $3.3 billion.  All costs will be recovered by electronic tolls. This means that people who realize the benefits of travel time savings and reliability will pay for the project without taking taxpayer funding away from transit improvements and other government priorities.”

It is abundently clear from the above that the only people presently paying for the cost of the entire project are the ones driving over the Port Mann bridge. To the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Tri-Cities drivers who have benefited from the same one-plus hour time savings that I have since the bridge opened, and to the drivers in Coquitlam, New West and Burnaby that are now enjoying the extra 30-plus minutes a day,  you’re welcome. Enjoy your free ride.

Over the past month there has been much made on the raising of the toll to the full $3, and justification for it by the opening of all the new lanes through Coquitlam to Vancouver. What an absolute crock.

I have not seen one question raised as to what the new lane openings have to do with travel time over the bridge itself. The answer of course to anyone who has been driving over the Port Mann for the past year is absolutely nothing. Other than the ice bomb fiasco, and a multi-multi car pile-up, I have not been delayed in traveling over the bridge itself once since it opened.

The wall westbound was hit between Cape Horn and Brunette, which had nothing to do with the bridge, other than it let me get to the backup faster.

I am in support of tolls when applied fairly. If a project is to be paid for by tolls, then everyone realizing the benefit of the improvements should be paying.

If every driver entering the highway paid $1, not only would the project be paid off sooner,  I and my fellow South of Fraser drivers might share the smiles of drivers zipping on and off the highway both west and east of the Port Mann Bridge.

Until then, there should be an immediate reprieve granted to the regular Port Mann users by offering a bulk buy rate on the existing $3 toll. Why can I not prepurchase 100 crossings at $1.50 each? The difference should be subsidized by regional taxes until toll gantries can be set up at 1st Ave. in Vancouver, 200th St. in Langley and all the on-ramps in between.

To the radio host that let slip he appreciated the time saved on his commute from Coquitlam since the new lanes opened (and then got away with no time left for callers to blast him about it), and to the rest of the media who have let such an obvious inequity continue without debate, shame on you. A referendum on tolling without full public debate on the issues around the PMH1 tolling policy would be a waste of time and money.

 

Brian Rumohr,

Langley

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