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June 9,2006

Port Mann tolls earn guarded support

But mayor wants focus on Evergreen Line, not bridge twinning

By Brooke Larsen - Staff Reporter

Plans to put a toll on the new Port Mann Bridge got guarded support from the mayors of Port Moody and Port Coquitlam Thursday.

"I think a toll is generally accepted by the public as a way to make people think twice about their driving habits," Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young said in an interview

On Tuesday, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon confirmed that commuters will have to pay a toll - likely $2.50 each way - to cross the twinned bridge, and said the toll would keep traffic from building up on the expanded bridge over time.

Young, a director on the TransLink board, said while the toll would likely prevent congestion, there's a danger that traffic will simply be diverted elsewhere.

"I think we need to come up with a strategy for the entire region so that we're not merely moving motorists to other corridors. We need to think regionally," said Young, adding that he would like to see tolls on the Alex Fraser and Arthur Laing bridges, as well.

As for the cost, Young isn't sure. When asked whether he supported a toll of $2.50 each way, he responded, "I'm not going to say whether I'm OK with it or not OK."

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini, who also sits on the TransLink board, gave his support for the toll, but had reservations about the twinning project as a whole.

"I think the toll will have an effect on the number of people who use bridge. In terms of reducing congestion, I think it is the way to go," Trasolini said in an interview.

"But if you ask me whether I'm in favour of twinning the bridge, I don't know. Nobody has asked me what I thought, and we haven't analyzed what kind of effect it will have on traffic in our area."

Trasolini also said the province should postpone the project until funding for the Evergreen Line is secured.

"We have to solve our own problems before we put more cars on the road north of the river.

"Let's fund the Evergreen Line first before we talk about the Port Mann Bridge. I have become a bit skeptical about whether [the Evergreen Line] is ever going to be built."

Coquitlam Coun. Fin Donnelly said tolling the existing bridge should have been considered before the province decided to expand it.

"What about putting an HOV lane and a toll on the bridge right now? It's worth looking at. Why wasn't it proposed?" he asked.

"Those kinds of questions ... were left out of the consultation process, so that the only question is 'Are you for the toll or against it?' and I think that's unfortunate."

During his announcement earlier this week, made in Coquitlam's Maquabeak Park, Falcon said 56 per cent of those who took part in the project's public consultation process supported a toll on the bridge, while 70 per cent supported a toll that included reduced rates for HOV-lane users and those crossing the bridge at night.

"The results show that people understand the need for improvements that reduce congestion as our region continues to grow," Falcon said in a news release.

According to the release, the province consulted more than 3,400 people during 13 open houses around the Lower Mainland.

Critics, however, have called the government's consultation process a sham, since it was started after the decision to go ahead with the Gateway Program was already made.

The program includes the expansion of Highway No. 1 from Langley to Vancouver.

Burnaby, New Westminster and Vancouver city councils have voted to oppose the project, and prominent environmentalists, such as David Suzuki, have said it will cause irreparable harm to the region's livability.

published on 06/09/2006

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