– New bridge pulling in a million a month

Maple Ridge News
By Phil Melnychuk

More people are northbound on the Golden Ears Bridge than drive south to Langley, according to numbers from TransLink.

With tolls now in force for almost two months, stats are showing the traffic trends for the $808-million structure after fees were applied in mid-July.

For residents or businesses worried about customers fleeing the north side of the Fraser River for Langley shopping malls, the numbers indicate otherwise.

Actually, in August, at least 16,000 more motorists drove to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows than vice versa. Specifically, 329,985 vehicles drove north across the bridge and 313,102 drove south.

While tolls are raking in cash, the monthly bills far exceed the $315,000 in monthly maintenance costs and $500,000 monthly payments to Golden Crossing General Partnership, the consortium that built the bridge. Those other charges include direct financing for property, tolling, project development and third party costs, plus payments to the toll contractor. Any surplus is going to cover future debt.

But according to TransLink numbers, the bridge is hauling in at well more than a million dollars a month. That’s based on an average during the slow summer time of 21,000 vehicles a day.

TransLink says 88.5 per cent of those vehicles are cars – which works out to about 18,585 cars crossing daily. It also says 31 per cent already have transponders, earning them the rock-bottom rate of $2.75 per crossing.

With 31 per cent of the 18,585 cars crossing daily having transponders, it means 5,761 vehicles are paying that bottom rate – working to out $15,842 a day. But the rest of the cars crossing are paying at least the $3.30 rate charged video customers – working out to $42,319 a day.

Multiply both figures by 30 days in a month and the dollars add up to $1.7 million, not counting trucks and motorcycles fares.

Still, according to TransLink’s value for money report and traffic and revenue study, it will still take 10 to 12 years before toll dollars match the entire costs of the bridge, even with $5 million annually flowing in from the former Albion ferry subsidy.

To the outsider, maintaining a brand new concrete structure would have minimal costs, but the list is extensive, including such chores as landscaping, mowing, ditching the approaches the bridge, sweeping the deck and roads, electrical fees, inspection, incident response and management, general repairs and parts replacement. Signal maintenance, electrical maintenance, drainage and cleaning, litter, public communication, vandalism and graffiti repairs are also considered maintenance.

TransLink says less than one per cent of the vehicles on the bridge are from out of province and it’s not tracking the number of cyclists using the Golden Ears.

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