– Sea-to-Sky toll pitched by Vancouver mayor

The Province

By Damian Inwood

Toll gates should be placed on the Sea-to-Sky Highway to help raise money for regional transit, says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

“I do think it’s a good idea,” he said Thursday.

“People raised it initially, that all the investment in that highway should be offset by tolling, as is being done in many places in the world.”

And Robertson said he also supports tolls on all the major Fraser River bridges to raise the extra $450 million TransLink needs for expansion.

“The new Golden Ears Bridge has a toll, so, if we look at other bridges around the region and what can be raised there, and we look at the Sea-to-Sky [Highway], I think there are opportunities,” he added.

Robertson made the comments after a speech to the Downtown Vancouver Association.

He said that, to raise $450 million, choices include a vehicle levy or tolls on bridges and roads.

“A lot of cities have gone to [the latter] to fund their infrastructure — I think we need to go there,” he said. “Right now, we’re stuck at this impasse between the region and the province, and TransLink’s stuck in the middle. It’s very troubling.”

He slammed the “perpetual cycle of underfunding transit and the odd big investment.”

“Right now we’ve got, literally, weeks to work this out,” added Robertson.

Mayors from across the region are to choose funding options for TransLink by the end of this month.

But Transportation Minister Shirley Bond said last night the B.C. government has no plans to toll the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

“Let’s face it, yesterday the rumours were that we should toll the Knight Street Bridge,” she said. “Today it’s, ‘Let’s toll the Sea-to-Sky Highway.’ This is not how we plan an integrated transit strategy for Metro Vancouver.”

She said the B.C. government has a policy to use tolls only when a “reasonable, non-tolled alternative” is unavailable.

“We’re not, at this point, contemplating a change in tolling policy,” she added.

“And we need to sit down and look at transportation issues in the Lower Mainland in a very comprehensive and thoughtful way.”

She dismissed Robertson’s suggestion of tolls on major bridges across the Fraser River, except for the new Port Mann Bridge, which she said was planned from the outset to be tolled.

She said TransLink has a number of ways to raise money, including property taxes, fuel taxes and the farebox.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said only part of the Sea-to-Sky Highway falls in TransLink’s jurisdiction.

He said he thought Whistler residents would oppose a highway toll.

“Some people call it the ‘lifeline’ of Sea-to-Sky,” he said.

“We don’t have an alternative route. Nobody likes paying for driving or parking and nobody likes to see extra charges.”

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