Richmond News: Knight Street toll bridge idea slammed

Councillors take issue with TransLink’s ‘road pricing’ proposal to help pay for regional transit system

BY ALAN CAMPBELL, RICHMOND NEWS

A group of Richmond councillors has been accused of jumping the gun on scaring motorists with tales of tolls on the Knight Street Bridge.

Thousands of Richmond commuters use the bridge every day to get in and out of Vancouver.

Councillors Ken Johnston, Derek Dang and Bill McNulty this week issued a statement saying motorists and commercial vehicles may soon face tolls on the busy bridge if TransLink moves forward on a new revenue generating plan known as “road pricing.”

But TransLink immediately played down the fears, saying the councillors were “way too premature” to be even talking about something as specific as a toll on the Knight Street Bridge.

“We need solutions to regional situations as a whole and we need a proper mechanism for the traffic and transit system,” said Judy Rudin, TransLink media relations manager.

“And we have to find a way to fund all of this. Road pricing is just one of the options; we have to look at many funding options. But we’re nowhere near holding talks about this. (Tolling on the Knight Street Bridge) is just one of very many options.”

Nevertheless, the mere thought of tolls on the bridge is enough for Johnston to set the alarm bells ringing.

“The idea of tolls being placed on the Knight Street Bridge is of grave concern to me, and it should be for residents and local business as well,” he said.

“Tolls on existing bridges would significantly change traffic patterns across the Lower Mainland and a proper discussion needs to be had with respect to its impact on the public.”

Over the last few months, TransLink has embarked on a highly publicized public consultation campaign called Be Part of the Plan, aimed at receiving feedback and ideas from the public on the direction transportation should take.

The Richmond councillors claim that, despite a wide array of suggestions received, road pricing is getting more attention than the rest. And they believe that the Knight Street Bridge, owned and maintained by TransLink, is a likely target.

“It’s possible that a decade from now the only non-tolled crossing for motorists over the North West Arm of the Fraser River will be the Oak Street Bridge,” said McNulty.

“Such tolls will take a ding out of residents’ wallets and put our business community at a competitive disadvantage resulting in lower investment and fewer jobs in our community.”

A recent report from the Regional Transportation Commissioner, an independent regulator of TransLink, states that TransLink needs an extra $130-million per year from existing revenue sources simply to maintain current service levels, and an extra $145-million on top of that to upgrade and expand transit services.

“While we respect the shortfall of revenues that TransLink faces, penalizing drivers with tolls without accompanying road improvements is simply not a solution,” said Dang.

“We feel it’s important for residents and stakeholders to tell TransLink that tolls on existing non-upgraded infrastructure, such as the Knight Street Bridge, are simply not an acceptable option.”

The Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation is expected to meet to draft a new funding plan for TransLink in October.

The council approves plans prepared by TransLink, including the transportation plan, regional funding and borrowing limits.

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