Nova Scotia

Hearing for bridge toll increase begins

A public hearing about possible toll increases on the Angus L. Macdonald and A. Murray MacKay bridges began Monday morning in Halifax.

A public hearing about possible toll increases on the Angus L. Macdonald and A. Murray MacKay bridges began Monday morning in Halifax.

The Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission has applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review board to increase the price of all tolls by about a third, starting early next year.

"That would take automobiles from 75 cents cash to $1; those who pay by MACPASS will go from 60 cents to 80 cents," said Steve Snider, general manager and CEO of Halifax Harbour Bridges.

"Essentially, if you want to save yourself some money and you're a cash user, convert to MACPASS and your increase is only going to cost you five cents."

For commercial vehicles using the MACPASS, the price of the tolls would go up by 29 cents per axle. Commercial vehicles using cash to cross the bridges would pay 34 cents more on average per axle if the increase is approved.

No price changes are proposed for buses, including the Access-A-Bus, in order to encourage the use of public transit over the bridges.

Although the hearing is scheduled for the week, Snider said it is only expected to take a couple of days. No evidence has been submitted by any intervenors.

"We've managed for the last 18 years to operate based on our cash flow. We've used that, in large part, to fund our smaller capital projects," Snider told CBC News ahead of Monday's hearing.

"We're now moving into a period where we've got about $140 million in costs that we expect to spend over the next four to five years and that's not reasonable to borrow for all of that."

Every year, 33 million trips are recorded over both the Angus L. Macdonald and the A. Murray MacKay bridges. The commission expects to raise an extra $8 million by hiking the toll 25 cents.

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