Ontario is ending tolls on 2 Toronto-area highways this spring
Premier Doug Ford announced the changes to Highways 412 and 418 on Friday
Ontario will remove tolls on two Greater Toronto Area highways this spring in a move Premier Doug Ford says will help Ontarians financially after the hardships of the pandemic.
Ford announced the changes to Highways 412 and 418 on Friday. The changes to the north-south Durham Region routes are to take effect on April 5.
Removing the tolls will give residents more travel options, relieve gridlock and help local businesses, the province said.
"Getting rid of these tolls will bring real tangible relief to the people of Durham and surrounding regions," Ford said at a news conference in Whitby, Ont.
"We know that this pandemic has been tough enough on people and businesses. Removing these tolls, putting money back in the pockets of hardworking Ontarians, is the right thing to do."
Ford also used his campaign-style announcement, which comes ahead of the scheduled June 2 provincial election, to take shots at the previous Liberal government for not ending what he called the "costly and unfair" tolls.
The routes connect Highway 401 to Highway 407 in Durham Region.
The government said its announcement won't affect rates on the separate, privately owned 407 ETR highway.
A Ministry of Transportation report from last year said tolling operations on Highways 407, 412 and 418 generated $160 million in total between 2017 and 2020.
Revenue from Highways 412 and 418 made up 24 per cent of the total, at $38.2 million.
Province won't comment on impact of removing tolls
The report estimated that it would take more than 25 years to pay construction costs on the two highways.
"This would be substantially longer if tolls were removed from Highways 412 and 418," it said.
A spokeswoman for the transportation minister did not comment specifically on the revenue and cost impacts of removing the tolls.
"The Ministry of Transportation will be responsible for the cost of the maintenance of the highways," Dakota Brasier said in an emailed statement.
"We will continue to explore revenue-generating opportunities along the transportation network that will not be a cost burden to Ontarians."
The NDP provincial member for Oshawa criticized the former Liberal government and current Progressive Conservative government for not ending the tolls sooner, calling the move "a big victory that's long overdue."
"The people of Durham and I have been the driving force behind ending these tolls. Today is a victory for the people of Durham Region," Jennifer French said in a written statement.