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Toll bridge popularity remains unproven in B.C.
Construction crews are ahead of schedule as they work on the new Port Mann Bridge, but early results for toll bridges in the Lower Mainland could signal trouble down the road.
About 25 per cent of the 10-lane span of the new bridge has already been completed. Right now, pre-cast sections of the deck are being moved into place.
The new bridge is part of a $2.4-billion, 37-kilometre upgrade of Highway 1. The goal is to reduce congestion and cut travel times by 30 per cent.
The bill for the project will be covered by electronic tolls, with a single toll point set up on the bridge.
The toll on opening day will be $3, and expectations are high that the Lower Mainland's second toll bridge will be a popular choice for commuters.
But the region's first toll bridge, the Golden Ears, hasn't exactly been a smash hit with commuters.
In May, TransLink said that the $1.2-billion bridge was not attracting as much traffic as expected -- almost a third below projections.
Now there's talk of reducing the toll to attract more traffic.
"Like any retailer, you might have a sale, but that's only one tool in the toolbox that's available to us," TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie told CTV News.
Nothing's been decided yet, but Hardie acknowledged that tolls could be a deterrent to drivers.
"A toll on a bridge will make people think very carefully about taking that trip. So that means the trips that are taking place are high value trips -- high value to the individual prepared to pay the toll, and also high value to the region."
But Transportation Minister Shirley Bond said she's convinced that the new Port Mann will be popular, despite the toll.
"I'm very confident that the Port Mann option will be so attractive to people that in fact they will utilize it at a very high rate."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mike Killeen