VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – This Tuesday, TransLink will be increasing the tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge by between a nickel and $0.15, depending on what kind of car you drive.  But the mayor of Maple Ridge doesn’t think this will deter people from using it.

Over the past couple of years, tolls have gone up steadily and so have the number of cars taking the crossing but the bridge still isn’t making money.  Last year, TransLink said toll revenue was between $35 and $45 million less that what it needed to repay capital payments.

Despite all that, Mayor Ernie Daykin is confident things will pick up soon. “Without a doubt. It’s a 75 or 100-year structure. I think it’s built for the future.”

There were also initial projections that up to 400 new businesses would open thanks to the bridge but he says that hasn’t happened yet. “Maple Ridge is already benefiting but are we benefiting to the degree that we thought we may? No.” he adds.

Daykin thinks, one day, the crossing will be as busy as the Port Mann or Pattullo bridges.  He also understands people don’t want to pay more, but insists it’s better the cost go up by nickels and dimes rather than one lump sum.

Meantime, the BC New Democrats don’t think the hike is fair.  “This increase adds to the toll costs that unfairly penalize people who live south of the Fraser. Last November [Transportation] Minister [Todd] Stone promised a review of provincial tolling policy but seven months later we’ve heard no news and seen no consultation,” says the party’s TransLink Critic George Heyman.

“The Golden Ears bridge costs TransLink $40 million annually in operating costs because the projected usage has not occurred as people understandably look for free routes. That money could go to enhanced bus or HandyDART service.  But instead service improvement is on hold while the government argues with the mayors about transit funding and delays review of our inequitable tolling policy.  Will rising tolls drive bridge usage down even further, thus increasing the TransLink subsidy?  That’s a question worth asking as the Liberals look at another new bridge without providing long-overdue answers about the fairness of our current tolling policy,” adds Heyman.

The crossing opened in 2009 and it’s not expected to turn a profit for at least another decade.