Drivers are avoiding Metro Vancouver's Port Mann Bridge and revenue projections are down 20 per cent, B.C.'s Transportation Minster Todd Stone confirmed on Friday, but the government won't be lowering tolls to increase the traffic.
On Jan. 1, tolls on the bridge doubled and residents living near the smaller Pattullo Bridge in Surrey and New Westminster say that has pushed an increasing amount of traffic through their neighbourhoods as drivers seek to avoid the tolls.
But Stone said while there has been an increase in traffic on all other bridges in the area, there was no big diversion of traffic to the nearby Pattullo Bridge, following the end of the $1.50 half-price tolls on New Year's Day.
He said an extra 3,000 vehicles now cross the Pattullo Bridge a day, but much of the heavy truck traffic in New Westminster is the result of a strong economy.
Rush hour traffic up
Stone said rush hour traffic is up on the Port Mann Bridge by six to 10 per cent, but there has been a three per cent decrease in overall traffic, because of reduced use of the bridge at other times of the day.
And as a result, the province's revenue projections have been downgraded by 20 per cent over the next three years and it now estimates it will collect $90 million less than first forecast.
Stone said despite the dip in revenue, the financial projections for the bridge remain on track, and no taxpayer subsidies are expected to pay off the construction debt as scheduled by 2050.
He noted the new bridge has cut commuting time from Langley from 60 minutes to 21, and increased the popularity of the express bus service. And he said people need to figure out for themselves how much their time is worth, because those driving around to avoid the Port Mann are not saving themselves much.
The 10-lane Port Mann Bridge, which links Coquitlam and Surrey along the Trans-Canada Highway east of Vancouver was first opened in 2012.
The Port Mann Bridge toll had been set at an introductory rate of $1.50 for cars, pickup trucks and small vans, but that rate doubled to $3 each crossing on Jan. 1.
Rates for larger vehicles weren't discounted and remain the same, at $6 a trip for cars with trailers, and for cube vans and small motor homes, and $9 for vehicles that are more than eight metres long.