British Columbia

Golden Ears Bridge opens with light traffic on 1st day

After three years of construction costing $800 million, Metro Vancouver's new Golden Ears Bridge finally opened to traffic when the first cars crossed just after 2 a.m. PT Tuesday.
Dozens of cars, trucks and motorcycles lined up early Tuesday morning to be the first to cross Metro Vancouver's new Golden Ears Bridge. ((CBC))

After three years of construction costing $800 million, Metro Vancouver's new Golden Ears Bridge finally opened to traffic when the first cars crossed just after 2 a.m. PT Tuesday.

Earl Dyck said it was worth staying up and waiting hours to be among the first to cross the new bridge, which connects the communities of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge north of the Fraser River with Surrey and the Trans-Canada Highway on the south.

"We thought there might be a prize," said Dyck with a laugh, "but obviously it probably won't happen."

At the start of the morning rush hour, traffic on the bridge was light. Several local mayors turned out to mark the event.

Tolls start in mid-July

For the first month the crossing will be toll-free, but many drivers have already signed up to lease an electronic device that will provide a big discount on each trip across the Fraser River when the tolls finally arrive in mid-July.

Rush=hour traffic was light on opening day for Metro Vancouver's new Golden Ears Bridge. ((CBC))

The Quickpass transponder, leased on an annual basis from TransLink, sits on a vehicle's dashboard and connects with computers at Metro Vancouver's regional transportation authority to automate billing.

Drivers who lease the transponder get a 30-per-cent break on the toll.

Drew Snider, a TransLink spokesman, said Monday that so many people have requested a Quickpass, there will be a delay in filling those orders.

"Right now we've had such a run on transponders we're actually not able to ship any more for another week or so," Snider said.

Drivers won't have to stop to pay the toll. Each trip across the bridge generates a bill — whether via the transponder or a photograph of the vehicle's licence plate taken at the time of the crossing — that can be settled later by credit card or other means.

Cars, vans and light trucks with the transponder will pay $2.75 per trip; the toll for those without the transponder rises to $3.90.

The tolls rise to $5.55 ($6.65 for those without the transponder) for cars towing a trailer, light duty commercial vehicles with fewer than five axles, school buses, motorhomes, and intercity buses or coaches.

Articulated trucks or tractor-trailer combinations will be charged $8.30 ($9.40 without the transponder). Motorcyclists will pay a flat rate of $2.50.

Drivers who refuse to pay their bill won't be allowed to renew their vehicle insurance with the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia until they settle their account, Snider warned. The transponder can be ordered at the TransLink website.

Albion ferries to be sold off

Now that the crossing has opened, the two Albion ferries that carried commuters across the Fraser will be taken out of service by TransLink on July 31 and put up for sale.

Snider said the ferries cost about $25 million a year to operate and the cash from the sale and the savings will go to paying down the cost of building the bridge, which Translink predicts will take 32 years to pay off.

He said the purchase price of the ferries is $1.1 million each.

"They're listed on Craigslist and also Global Marine Trader and there have been some expression of interest. Washington Ferries has nibbled. Also the City of Prince Rupert is interested in getting one of them for their ferry to the airport there," said Snider.

More than 60 people work on the Albion ferries.