If you think traffic has increased on the Golden Ears Bridge, you’re right.
Data provided to the Langley Advance Times by TransLink shows the number of cars using the bridge linking Maple Ridge and Langley every day has gone up by 72 per cent over five years, from an average of 32,000 vehicles in 2014 to 55,000 vehicles in 2018.
There was a big jump after bridge tolls were eliminated by the new NDP government.
In 2018, the first full toll-free year, traffic went up by roughly a third, from 42,000 vehicles in 2017, to 55,000.
Golden Ears saw a bigger percentage increase than the Port Mann, which, B.C. Ministry of Transportation figures show, experienced a 60 per cent increase from 2014 to 2018, with a big bump after tolls came off.
Average daily traffic volumes were 94,000 vehicles in 2014, 99,000 in 2015, 112,000 in 2016, and 122,000 in 2017.
Construction of the six-lane Golden Ears Bridge and associated roads began in April 2006 and was completed in June 2009.
It replaced the Albion Ferry, a free vehicle and passenger ferry service across Fraser River which had been sailing between Albion in Maple Ridge and McMillan Island near Fort Langley June 1957.
Golden Ears tolls ran from $3.20 to $4.45 for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs, $6.35 to $7.55 for medium-sized vehicles, and $9.45 to $10.70 for commercial vehicles.
To pay off the company that built the bridge, the toll were scheduled to last more than 35 years.
During the election that saw the NDP form a minority government with Green support, then-leader John Horgan campaigned on removing tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges completely, while the Liberals said they’d cap yearly toll charges for motorists at $500.
Horgan called the charges “unfair,” saying people “shouldn’t have to pay tolls based on where you live.”
It was estimated that eliminating tolls would save families who regularly have to cross the Fraser River an average $1,500 a year.
Commercial drivers averaging one crossing a day were expected to save $4,500 a year or more.
Green Party leader Andrew Weaver criticized the proposed elimination of the tolls, calling it a “reckless” move that would add “billions of dollars to taxpayer-supported debt” and potentially prevent the provincial government from being able to invest more in important social programs.