Commuters from Surrey worried about paying tolls when the new Port Mann Bridge officially opens are getting something of a reprieve from the provincial government.
In an announcement made Wednesday afternoon, the province said would-be commuters of the new bridge would be able to cross at a discounted rate for the first three months at $1.50 per crossing.
Additionally, commuters who register with the province before the end of February 2013 are able to extend that discount for the year and once the timeframe for the discounted tolls is over, drivers will have to pay $3 to each way to cross the bridge.
"For the first year, drivers will be able to experience these significant time savings for just a $1.50," said Transportation Minister Mary Polak in a statement.
The move follows the announcement that three lanes of the new bridge would be opening on Tuesday in order to begin transitioning from the old bridge. Tolls will not take effect until the new bridge officially opens in December.
Mayor Dianne Watts, who has expressed concerns about the tolls in the past said the discounted rates were a positive thing for drivers.
"I think when you have a discount for the tolls that have been announced, it's good news for anybody that will use the Port Mann Bridge," said Watts.
However, the mayor remained adamant that she would still like to see other municipalities or levels of government bear the cost of infrastructure upgrades.
"I still think that in terms of an overall tolling policy, there has to be something fair and equitable across the region," she said.
"That discussion needs to be undertaken and I've had numerous conversations with the new (transportation) minister and there's opportunities to look at the infrastructure that's needed for the future and especially the needs of those south of the Fraser."
As for how the tolls may affect Surrey, Watts said the city would be keeping an eye on what, if any, impact the bridge will have on other parts of Surrey's roads once the tolls come into effect.
"We will monitor if there is any diversion from the Port Mann Bridge to come through Surrey to use the Pattullo or elsewhere," she said.
Speaking in Surrey earlier in the week at a luncheon, MLA Kevin Falcon, who was Transportation Minister when news of the new bridge was announced, said the new Port Mann will be hugely important for the future of Surrey and British Columbia.
"That bridge will be transformative for the region, I assure you," he said.
"When you go from five lanes to 10 lanes and you introduce cycling, rapid buses, it's going to be transformative not only for commuters but for the transportation of goods."
The new bridge will offer 10 lanes as opposed to the current five, and at 65-metres, will be the widest in the world when it opens.
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