Christy Clark opposed road tolls at a stop March 24 in Langley, saying “I don’t support universal tolling and road pricing. I don’t think it works.'

Premier criticized for stance opposing road tolls

Comment unhelpful, say chairs of TransLink and Metro Vancouver mayors council

Premier Christy Clark’s vow to block new road or bridge tolls is being dismissed as unproductive and perhaps irrelevant by TransLink’s board chair.

Nancy Olewiler said Clark’s statement in Langley March 24 rejecting universal road pricing or tolling may pose a barrier to solving TransLink’s long-term funding challenge and expanding the transit system in Metro Vancouver.

“We’re going to wait and see whether that kind of statement becomes policy or not,” Olewiler said in a Black Press interview.

“We have a current premier who has made an announcement. But that isn’t too helpful in terms of deciding how to move forward.”

She made the comments after being asked about TransLink’s plans to rebuild the aging Pattullo Bridge and whether the replacement will be tolled.

Olewiler said that’s one example of why the province needs to reform its current tolling policy, which allows tolls only on new infrastructure and only if there’s a reasonable free alternative.

The provincial tolling policy blocks any move to road pricing, or to apply small tolls to all bridges in the region, as Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has repeatedly proposed.

The Port Mann Bridge was tolled on the basis the Pattullo offers a viable free alternative, but critics say that already questionable logic falls apart if both the Pattullo and the Massey Tunnel are also replaced with toll bridges.

“Right now, if you have to have a free alternative, I don’t know what the free alternative to the Pattullo would be,” Olewiler said. “The Alex Fraser? Not so much. A canoe?”

Metro Vancouver mayors are united in calling for various new revenue tools to fund transit expansion, including road pricing over the longer term.

Transportation Minister Mary Polak previously said mayors can explore road pricing but must build substantial public support if the province is to consider approving it.

There are many potential permutations of road pricing, but some mayors suggest it would see motorists pay small per kilometre fees to drive any significant distance in the region, rather than larger tolls only at certain bridges. There’s also been talk that it could partly replace other existing taxes.

“Road pricing isn’t something that can happen today or tomorrow, but it would be nice to know it’s something we can continue to look at,” Olewiler said.

Mayors’ Council chair Richard Walton the mayors are continuing their discussions with Polak this month and as far as he is aware nothing has been taken off the table.

Walton said the aim is to have a structured public discussion on road pricing over the next year or two, adding it would be a major policy shift that should not be rushed.

“If anyone in senior government dismisses road pricing right now before there’s even a meaningful public dialogue, I don’t think that’s good policy,” he said.

“We’re hoping all the political parties will approach this with an open mind, rather than set policy before the research and public discussion has taken place.”

Walton also suggested Clark is out of step with business groups like the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, which endorses a serious look at road pricing.

“The business community, the mainstay of the Liberal party, are supportive in moving in this direction. So there’s a bit of a disconnect right now.”

Olewiler said a short list of options to replace the Pattullo will go out to public consultations in mid-May.

She said Surrey and New Westminster municipal reps have agreed to work together to try to find a mutually agreeable configuration of a new bridge, which New West residents fear will increase local traffic.

Olewiler said the province also needs to be part of the Pattullo discussion to deal with routing of trucks and connections to provincial highways like the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Highway 1.

Those talks with government will have to wait until after the election, she said, but added it’s important to “make sure the big picture is looked at and this isn’t just our little bridge in the middle of it.”

Just Posted

Police dog helps apprehend ‘prolific’ property crime offender near Surrey, Langley border

Douglas Holmes, 47, has been charged with break and enter of a business on the Langley Bypass

VIDEO: Crooks use truck, sledgehammer to break into Langley stores

Thieves have hit two Brookswood stores in commercial burglaries in the last month.

COMMUTER ALERT: Serious pedestrian crash closes Pacific Highway

Traffic along 176th Street, 4th to 8th Avenue, is blocked while Mounties continue to investigate.

Marcel Dionne to appear at the Legends Banquet at the Langley Events Centre

Hockey Hall of Famer is one of several NHL greats slated to attend

B.C. Sports Hall of Fame to give Giants owner Ron Toigo W.A.C. Bennett Award

Head of Langley-based team has been involved with junior hockey since the 1990s

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Drug-related deaths double for B.C. youth in care, advocate says

Teens say positive connections with adults key to recovery

Children’s strawberry-flavoured medicines recalled due to faulty safety cap

Three different acetaminophen syrups part of nationwide recall

Around the BCHL: Junior A cities to host World Junior tuneup games

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

International students hit hard by B.C. tuition fee hikes

Campaign seeks regulatory controls be imposed on post-secondary institutions

Trudeau pushes for more Saudi accountability in Khashoggi killing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is still seeking clear answers from Saudi Arabia about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

School bullying video shows how people with disabilities are devalued: advocates

Brett Corbett, who has cerebral palsy, is seen in a video being stepped while lying in water

CFL will use extra on-field official to watch for illegal blows to quarterback

If the extra official sees an illegal blow that has not already been flagged, they will advise the head referee, who can then assess a penalty for roughing the passer

Older B.C. drivers subsidizing younger ones, study finds

ICBC protects higher-risk drivers, pays for testing costs

Most Read