Toll debate continues as Champlain Bridge project moves forward
Published Monday, March 3, 2014 1:56PM EST
Last Updated Monday, March 3, 2014 9:18PM EST
MONTREAL- As Ottawa searches for companies to bid on the replacement for the Champlain Bridge project, the issue of whether or not to implement tolls is still being hotly debated.
The federal government and the province disagree -- Quebec and Montreal don't want tolls, while Ottawa's stance is no tolls, no bridge.
The federal government expects the project to tally a $3 to 5 billion pricetag, and while it is ready to pay part of the cost, it says it certainly won't be paying the entire thing.
The project will span 7 kilometres and see the construction of a six-lane bridge, complete with a dedicated lane for public transit.
Quebec and Montreal argue that there shouldn’t be a toll on the bridge because the project is replacing an existing structure, not building a brand new bridge.
“What I'm looking for now is answers,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. “That bridge belongs to everybody. It's not my fault that 50 years ago they tried to save some money and he made a bad bridge. It's not a new bridge.”
On the other hand, Ottawa says that costs exist regardless, and remains adamant that the entirety of the bill is not going to be footed exclusively by Canadian taxpayers.
“The user paying system is very important,” said Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel. “The toll would not be for the whole bridge, there will be some federal money in the project.”
He said that at this point they don’t know what that exact amount will be, since no agreement has been signed with partners on the project. “But since the first day we have announced the project -- October 5, 2011 -- we have said there will be tolls on that bridge.”
And, he reiterated, there will be.
How much that toll will be, however, is still unknown and will ultimately come down to building company that will help decide what the cost will be.
It’s not a bew idea; there was a 25-cent toll on the Champlain Bridge until 1990.
Still, it’s unfair because they aren’t building a new route, simply replacing a poorly constructed span that federal taxpayers and tolls already paid for, said Quebec’s Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault.
The new bridge design will be unveiled in the spring of 2015. The new bridge is still being promised for the end of 2018.