Golden Ears Bridge could see new owners

Province, TransLink deciding in ‘months ahead’

TransLink has a bridge it may want to sell you.

Except you already own it.

The topic of moving the ownership of Golden Ears Bridge from TransLink and having the provincial government take ownership came up on Friday during a meeting of the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation.

Doing so could be a way of removing the albatross of debt that TransLink now faces without the revenue from the tolls that were removed Sept. 1 by the incoming New Democratic government.

According to the B.C. Green party, the lack of toll revenue is costing TransLink $120 million a year, while TransLink still owes $1.1 billion for the bridge’s finance and construction costs.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, however, said nothing’s been decided.

“TransLink continues to own, operate and maintain the Golden Ears Bridge,” said Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson, whose ministry is responsible for TransLink.

She expects a decision on bridge ownership in “the months ahead.”

However, the province has committed to putting $30 million a year into TransLink, to help the agency get its programs going. It’s also chipping in 40 per cent of the costs of Phase 2 of the mayor’s 10-year transportation plan.

The province and TransLink are working together to decide the bridge’s future, Robinson added in a statement.

Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said the scenario was discussed as an alternative to the provincial government paying TransLink directly for the shortfall in toll money.

Becker said it doesn’t matter who owns the bridge, as long as whoever owns it shares in regional transportation planning.

“There’s only one taxpayer,” he said Tuesday.

Becker added that, so far, the province hasn’t taken the responsibility for regional transportation planning. He hopes under the new government, “hopefully sooner than later, there will be a much more intelligent regional planning function established,” so the province isn’t making announcements or decisions without consulting the Mayor’s Council or TransLink board, “which is goofy.”

He doesn’t see that requiring restructuring, or new agencies, but instead just sees the provincial government becoming more involved in regional transportation planning.

“From a transportation planning point of view, it still seems somewhat ludicrous that we have this patchwork of responsibilities between TransLink and the province.”

“Let’s come up with joint structures, ad hoc as though they may be, that are going to move regional transportation in Metro Vancouver into the 21st Century,” Becker said.

But building roads and bridges is an outdated approach to transportation, Becker added, because it creates more demand for the same, leading to an endless cycle of building roads and sprawl.

Generally, if there’s money available, it should be spent on improving public transit, he said.

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