Toll roads could be beneficial for Edmonton, administration report says

A debate about toll roads is kicking into gear at Edmonton city hall, starting off with a report that highlights some of the benefits.

A 'white paper' says road user fees can help commuters make 'more prudent' choices

A report soon to be debated at city hall says toll roads could be a beneficial long-term financing tool for the city. (John Robertson/CBC Edmonton)

A debate about toll roads is picking up speed at Edmonton city hall, kicking off with a report that highlights some benefits.

A 'white paper' released by city administrators examines different options for bringing in revenue to help ensure the city's financial stability over the next decade.

Included in the strategy is a discussion of user fees, and whether the city should be charging more for a variety of services, including transit, recreation and roads.

According to the report, roadway user fees can help manage congestion on main commuter routes, while providing a source of reliable funding for costly infrastructure upgrades, such as bridges and interchanges.  

"By applying user fee pricing toward roadway infrastructure, a more efficient allocation of government resources would prevail, as citizens would make more prudent choices between housing and commuting costs, which would be less subsidized and would lead to more compact, efficient cities," reads the report.

There are 20 toll roadways and bridges in Canada — two in British Columbia, three in Nova Scotia, 12 in Ontario, one in Prince Edward Island, and two in Quebec.

But the city currently doesn't have the legislative power to use toll roads as a financing tool. The Alberta Traffic Safety Act currently prohibits municipalities from imposing user fees on roads or bridges.

The white paper proposes changes to the transit fare system. Administration recommends that current subsidies for seniors, youth and low-income riders could be capped,  in favour of a scheme which charges riders according to time of day, distance travelled and their location.

"Numerous metropolitan centres use geographic or distance-travelled variable transit pricing. The City will have more opportunity to apply different transit service pricing models once the Smart Fare system is deployed."

The city will hold a public hearing on the issue April 12.

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