The B.C. government is set to announce a reduction of as much as 50 per cent on tolls for the new Port Mann Bridge, CBC News has learned.
Previous plans were for car drivers to shell out $3 each way to use the new bridge, or as much as $1,500 a year for daily commuters — and more for drivers of larger vehicles.
Sources tell CBC News the reduction, to be announced Wednesday, will range from 33 per cent to 50 per cent, although the reduction might be temporary.
Three lanes of the new 10-lane bridge between Coquitlam and Surrey will be in use as of next week, while a total of eight lanes are scheduled to be open by December.
Sources say the toll reduction will be in place until the bridge is fully opened at the end of 2013.
Families and politics
B.C. Transportation Minister Mary Polak was not tipping her hand Tuesday about the amount of the reduction, but said the government is aware of the sensitivity of the issue.
"Certainly there are pressures for families and we want to make sure that it's affordable," Polak said.
"We also recognize — and I certainly do, being from Langley — that the opening of that bridge, which will be the widest of its kind will cut people's travel time about by half."
The two-kilometre bridge, with a width of 65 metres, will be the widest in the world.
NDP Transportation critic Harry Bains says it's no accident the reduction will take effect just before the next election, when the unpopular tolls are expected to be a big issue for voters.
"This government has a history of saying anything, doing anything just before the election to stay in power. That's their history and I think they'll do the same thing before this election," said Bains.
Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender said his main concern is that residents of all parts of Metro Vancouver share the cost of transportation infrastructure fairly, and called the toll reduction a good first step.
"I think what we want is a system that looks at all of the combination of things and ensures that we share the load with everybody in the region who benefits," said Fassbender.