The replacement of the Massey Tunnel with a new toll bridge must come with reforms to make tolling consistent and fair across the region, according to the Surrey Board of Trade.
The business group has come out in support of the proposed 10-lane bridge but is also strongly urging the province to begin the dialogue on road pricing reforms so drivers don’t jam traffic by trying to use a dwindling number of untolled bridges.
“Coordinated regional planning for infrastructure and tolling policy is desperately needed to ensure that no area is unduly penalized by unequal tolling practices,” CEO Anita Huberman said.
“What we’re telling the province is to start the dialogue immediately. We can’t wait.”
Various flavours of road pricing have already been suggested, from smaller tolls on all existing bridges to per kilometre road use fees, perhaps varying by time of day and degree of congestion.
Huberman said she hopes there is political will provincially to explore what change is needed and make it happen.
She said the livability of the Metro Vancouver region is at stake as the population grows, as well as the ability to attract new business.
“If our costs on this side of the bridge or the river continue to increase, it’s going to compromise our economy,” Huberman said.
A Surrey Board of Trade survey with the South Surrey/White Rock Chamber of Commerce last month found 60 per cent of respondents supported adding tolls to existing untolled bridges to help finance replacements and support ongoing maintenance. It found 34.5 per cent opposed.
The province’s current tolling policy says tolls can only be added to new infrastructure and only when a reasonable untolled alternative exists.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone has said that policy will likely have to change if both the new Massey Bridge and the replacement Pattullo Bridge are tolled, as proposed by the province and TransLink respectively, to keep too much traffic from piling up at the free Alex Fraser Bridge.
Stone has yet to deliver a previously promised tolling policy review, but he has encouraged discussion about toll reforms as part of the Massey replacement consultations.
Two open houses were conducted last week and comments on the Massey Bridge proposal are being accepted until Feb. 15.
The Surrey Board of Trade will lead a forum on the road pricing on April 8.