The smile on the face of the Premier illuminated the early morning gloom as the new Port Mann bridge was officially opened to eight lanes on Saturday.
It’s hard to say how long the honeymoon will last.
Especially when commuters and truckers start to see the effect the full cost of tolls will have on their wallets every month.
Sensing the backlash that financial hit could spawn, crossing the bridge will be free for the first week, half price until Feb. 28 for drivers who haven’t registered for a special windshield sticker and until next November for those who have. Like a drug pusher trying to establish a marketplace, the government is hoping if they get drivers hooked on the new bridge, they’ll pay whatever it takes to keep moving and won’t blink when they start getting dinged three bucks a crossing.
But they may be underestimating the determination of Greater Vancouver motorists to drive for a bargain.
Already burdened by the highest cost of living in Canada, extracting another $1,500 a year out of the household accounts of regular users of the Port Mann will be one debit too much. Not to mention the increases in the cost of food and consumer goods that are transported by trucks over the bridge.
Three years ago the tolled Golden Ears Bridge that links Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to Highway 1 via Langley was opened with similar fanfare. Yet every morning drivers heading west from those communities line up bumper-to-bumper on the Lougheed Highway to cross the free Pitt River bridge as the six lanes of the Golden Ears sit largely empty.
While tolls help pay for the infrastructure we so desperately need to keep up with Greater Vancouver’s booming population, those tolls need to be kept affordable for all.