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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears / I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here
— Woody Guthrie, Remember the Mountain Bed
September 27, 2008
Listen to the Bell, Mr. Premier…It Tolls for Thee

Gordon Campbell today announced at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting tolls would be removed from the Coquihalla Highway as of 13:00hrs today. The Vancouver Sun provides sufficiently pedantic coverage.

The logic is pretty obvious here: the new Port Mann bridge is going to be tolled, which means this effectively just moves the toll farther up the highway. The route from Vancouver to the Interior will only be toll free for a short period of time. The Lougheed Highway provides an alternate, probably permanently toll free route to the Coquihalla but from Vancouver it adds quite a bit of time: for most people, it’s not practical.

The obvious question though, is what happened to the 2003 plan of privatizing the Coquihalla. At the time, Transportation Minister Judith Reed explained the decision by saying that:

“As the 17-year-old highway ages, maintenance and rehabilitation costs will grow. These improvements must be made in a way that ensures the 81 per cent of users from outside the southern Interior pay the largest share, and benefits frequent travellers - especially local residents.

The government—the same government—at the time insisted that privatization was the only way to keep the Coquihalla running effectively into the future. There was just no other way.

The government press release is archived here but I’ve excerpted it after the break in case that URL changes.

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
2003TRAN0031-000436
May 6, 2003
Ministry of Transportation

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES NEW FUTURE FOR COQUIHALLA HIGHWAY

MERRITT - A new maintenance and operations arrangement to manage the Coquihalla Highway will improve services, reduce costs for residents who are frequent travellers and create new infrastructure for the southern Interior, Transportation Minister Judith Reid said today.

Under the new arrangement, the Coquihalla roadbed and right-of-way will remain publicly owned, while a private-sector investor will be sought to assume responsibility for the operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of the highway between Hope and Merritt. Legally binding service and safety standards will be set under a 55-year contract, ensuring long-term reliability and predictability in operations.

“The Coquihalla Highway is a major trade route for the southern Interior and has the potential to be an even stronger economic engine in the future,” said Reid. “As the 17-year-old highway ages, maintenance and rehabilitation costs will grow. These improvements must be made in a way that ensures the 81 per cent of users from outside the southern Interior pay the largest share, and benefits frequent travellers - especially local residents.

“By providing more efficient and reliable operations over the long term, the new model will help transform the Coquihalla to create new economic growth, improved infrastructure and new opportunities for southern Interior residents. The Coquihalla is a great asset. And it can be so much better, with new capital, new energy and a new focus on improved customer service.”

Tollroad News (a finer example of micro-marketing I can’t possibly think of) has an archive that includes a look at the economics of the B.C. governments proposal.

Posted by skooter at 1:46 AM This entry is filed under Canada, Travel, Vancouver.
This entry is tagged: BC Liberal Party, Gordon Campbell, Transportation, Urban Development, Urban Planning

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