PENTICTON, B.C. — Travelers along B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway got a pleasant surprise on the weekend – no tolls.
The toll-free move was made permanent by Premier Gordon Campbell, after drivers spent more than 20 years paying off the construction.
“The Coquihalla Highway opened British Columbia’s Interior like never before, generating economic opportunities and fostering the tremendous growth of communities,” said Premier Campbell. “Former Premier Bill Bennett had a vision for a highway that would see our province reach its full economic potential. It has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations and has become the foundation for a transportation network that has opened up Canada’s Pacific Gateway to North America and the rest of the world.”
The highway officially opened on May 16, 1986, at the dawn of Expo 86 with the first phase, from Hope to Merritt. Phase 2, from Merritt to Kamloops, was completed on Sept. 4, 1987 and the final phase, the Coquihalla Connector from Merritt to Kelowna, was completed Oct. 1, 1990.
Current annual revenue collected by the tolls is approximately $57 million.
The total capital cost of the three phases was $848 million. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure anticipates that revenues collected from the tolls since its opening will have effectively offset those total capital costs by next month.
“Removing the tolls will mean literally hundreds of dollars annually in the pockets of British Columbians who regularly use the highway,” said Premier Campbell. “It will also mean thousands of dollars in annual saving for truckers who account for 20 percent of highway traffic along the corridor but pay more than half of the total toll revenue.”
Approximately 3.4 million trips are completed across the Coquihalla Highway each year in British Columbia. In 2007, 2.7 million passenger vehicles and 700,000 commercial trucks crossed the corridor.
“In 2003, our government passed a policy clearly stating that any infrastructure financed by toll revenue must see the tolls removed upon recovery of construction costs,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon. “This milestone marks an important time in our province’s history as we continue to open up our transportation networks with projects such as the $3-billion Gateway Project, the Kicking Horse Canyon, the Cariboo Connector four-laning, the William R. Bennett Bridge and port and airport expansions.”
The removal of tolls along the Coquihalla Highway might make it easier for travelers to accept a pending toll on the new twinned Port Mann Bridge when it opens in 2013. The span is expected to be tolled for 35 years.