Four years after the opening of the Golden Ears Bridge, the tolled crossing is hemorrhaging money to the tune of $35-$45 million per year.

TransLink revealed the staggering numbers to the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council Thursday, along with a warning the bridge could continue losing tens of millions annually for years to come.

The transit authority admits drivers haven’t flocked to the $800-million crossing as quickly as anticipated, but insists it’s too soon to start panicking over numbers.

“We always expected a ramp-up period. We expected traffic to be low to begin with and gradually usage would increase,” said Sany Zein, TransLink’s director of roads.

“What we now know is that ramp-up is slower than expected.”

Officials blame rising gas prices and the fact that initial traffic estimates were calculated prior to the 2008 recession for the disappointing numbers.

There has been improvement in recent years; crossings jumped from 9.8 million in 2011 to roughly 10.8 million in 2012.

That’s still not enough to pay the bills, however, and many motorists continue to have a love-hate relationship with the Golden Ears and its toll, which costs $3 each way for registered drivers in cars, trucks and SUVs.

Zein said the bridge is expected to last 100 years, and will prove its worth eventually.

“In the future, people will look back and see this as a very good investment in the region,” he said.

In the meantime, TransLink said the new Port Mann Bridge is at least meeting projections, at about 3.4 million crossings per year.

News of the massive Golden Ears losses came just a week after B.C. announced plans for a new crossing to replace the George Massey Tunnel.

The province hasn’t announced how much that project could cost, or whether the completed bridge would be tolled. Construction is expected to start in 2017.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Julie Nolin