Odd Thoughts: Bridge tolls wreak political toll

Why not modest tolls on all Lower Mainland bridges?

Removing tolls from local bridges seems a risky political move for a fledgling NDP minority government sorely dependent on a Green rump opposed to it.

Masses of ardent supporters of Langley’s Socred/Liberal MLA Rich Coleman, still stinging from the provincial slap that flung their hero to the dingy side of the legislature, won’t bother exploring the merits. They’ll pretend to hate it outright while gleefully chortling over the blood splashed between Premier John Horgan and Green horn Andrew Weaver.

Lots of people in Langley will be pleased – even if the Coleman Country bumpkins won’t admit it.

Langley has a deep history of despising tolls, going back to the 1934 announcement that a new bridge at New Westminster would be tolled.

Langley’s council expressed its malcontent over the provincial announcement by holding an emergency meeting and planning a public protest. That malcontent council covered all of Langley, including the malcontents who eventually split off to form their own little fiefdom currently known as Langley City.

The Pattullo Bridge was opened by Premier Thomas Dufferin (Duff) Pattullo in November of 1937, and Langley residents would have to pay a toll of 25 cents per crossing, until the toll was finally lifted in 1952.

It was unfair to all residents south of the Fraser River.

Sound familiar?

Adding insult to injury, the new bridge was to replace an adequate vehicle/rail bridge that had offered free crossings to those stray Langley motorists.

At a time when any trek to New Westminster or points west, whether for business or to visit relatives, was community news worthy of a mention in the local paper, those two bits constituted an assault on freedom of movement.

Only when the Lions Gate Bridge opened a year later – also with a 25-cent toll appended – did Langley’s furor abate somewhat. Maybe it wasn’t so unfair, after all, if the Other Guys also paid.

Today’s toll opponents have again been screaming “Unfair!” while proponents slavered over the revenue. Would it make more sense, rather than removing the Port Mann and Golden Ears tolls altogether, to lower those tolls to a more acceptable rate… and add similar tolls to all major Lower Mainland Bridges connecting its other districts?

It would be a political risk. It would break a campaign promise to noisy malcontents.

But it would be fair.

Apparently, Horgan’s Dippers, like Christy’s Libs, favour a safe base over fairness.