Champlain Bridge tolls decision could cost taxpayers $3B

Item date: 
July 4, 2018
Item context: 

Martin Collier was interviewed for this article on the new Champlain Bridge (CB) in Montreal. Besides talking about the benefits and challenges of road pricing (e.g. the fact former Montreal Mayor and Liberal MP Denis Coderre wouldn't give PM Justin Trudeau support for his 2015 election campaign if he did not remove the tolls from former PM Harper's bridge), Martin found it nice to talk about the old CB as he grew up a few kilometres away. From when it opened to traffic in 1962 until 1990, drivers paid tolls to cross it: 25 cents at rush hour and 10 cents in off-peak -- a lot of money when a loaf of bread cost less than 18 cents!


Canadian taxpayers may be on the hook for as much as $3 billion as a result of the Liberal government’s 2015 decision to cancel tolling on the new Champlain bridge in Montreal.
That’s how much the private consortium Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group (SSLG) stands to lose in toll revenues, federal auditor general Michael Ferguson reported in his Spring Reports tabled in Parliament May 29.
The federal Infrastructure department is currently in negotiations with the consortium to determine exactly how much SSLG will be compensated for that pre-election decision and others. The auditor general also noted traffic on the bridge will increase by some 20 per cent due to the lack of toll pricing and it has been confirmed compensation for that increased wear and tear is also part of the federal/SSLG talks.
Transport Futures founder Martin Collier, an authority of transportation pricing mechanisms, called the 2015 tolling decision, written into the Liberals’ election platform and implemented following their October 2015 win, “a huge, huge mistake.” Among the reasons offered by Collier to support user-pay tolling to pay for major infrastructure, he said toll roads and bridges reduce congestion, diverting traffic elsewhere so people are not wasting their time sitting unproductively in traffic; they provide revenues to pay for infrastructure; they enable flexible tolling schemes to encourage and discourage use at different times of the day; and they reduce greenhouse gases and promote cleaner public transit...