British Columbia

Coquihalla Highway tolls dropped, says B.C. premier

Tolls on the Coquihalla Highway will be removed immediately, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today during his annual address to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Tolls on the Coquihalla Highway will be removed immediately, Premier Gordon Campbell announced Friday during his annual address to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in Penticton.

Annual tolls collected on the road hit $57 million last year and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure anticipated they would have paid off the full cost of building the highway later this fall.

With the highway nearly paid for, government policy meant it was time for the toll booths to come down said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon.

"In 2003, our government passed a policy clearly stating that any infrastructure financed by toll revenue must see the tolls removed upon recovery of construction costs," said Falcon.

At total of $845 million in tolls has been collected in the 22 years since the highway opened. It originally cost $848 million to build in three phases, the last of which was completed in 1990 with the opening of the Coquihalla Connector to Kelowna.

"Removing the tolls will mean literally hundreds of dollars annually in the pockets of British Columbians who regularly use the highway," said Campbell.

"It will also mean thousands of dollars in annual saving for truckers who account for 20 per cent of highway traffic along the corridor but pay more than half of the total toll revenue," Campbell said.

The ministry said 3.4 million trips are completed on the Coquihalla system each year, including 2.7 million trips by passenger vehicles and 700,000 trips by commercial trucks.

The 186-kilometre highway, also known as Highway 5, officially opened on May 16, 1986, running between Hope and Kamloops. The Coquihalla Connector, opened in 1990, created a route directly to Kelowna.

The four- to six-lane route was credited with kickstarting an economic boom in the Okanagan and the rest of B.C.'s Southern Interior at the dawn of Expo 86 by significantly reducing driving time to the Lower Mainland, although it was frequently closed due to heavy snow and avalanches.

"Former premier Bill Bennett had a vision for a highway that would see our province reach its full economic potential. It has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations and has become the foundation for a transportation network that has opened up Canada's Pacific Gateway to North America and the rest of the world. Today's announcement marks the next milestone in that legacy," said Campbell.

Tolls on the highway started at $5 for motorcycles, $10 for cars and light trucks and up to $50 for trucks.