Alberta Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney, left, walks with former interim leader Ric McIver at the Federal Building in Edmonton, Monday, March 20, 2017. The Alberta government has introduced legislation to bring in toll roads and bridges, but just for new projects. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

Alberta Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney, left, walks with former interim leader Ric McIver at the Federal Building in Edmonton, Monday, March 20, 2017. The Alberta government has introduced legislation to bring in toll roads and bridges, but just for new projects. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

Alberta government introduces legislation to levy tolls on new roads, bridges

Transportation Minister Ric McIver says the bill explicitly prohibits user fees on existing roads and bridges

The Alberta government has introduced legislation that would bring in tolls on roads and bridges, but just for new projects.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver says the bill explicitly prohibits user fees on existing roads and bridges.

But he adds Alberta is facing a severe financial crunch and needs to find creative ways to finance critical infrastructure.

“User-financed construction will strengthen economic growth and competitiveness at a time when Albertans need it most,” McIver told a news conference Tuesday prior to introducing the bill in the legislature.

“This means faster commutes and less congestion while unleashing economic potential through speeding up commerce.”

McIver noted tolls are accepted ways to raise money in other jurisdictions, such as the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia and Highway 407 in Toronto.

He said that under the bill the toll plan could only be used for new projects or expansions to existing ones. A toll could only go ahead if there remained a no-toll option for drivers not wanting to pay.

Revenue collected from the tolls would have to be used for the cost of the new road or bridge and the toll would disappear once the capital cost of the project was paid off.

The government could suspend the fee in case of emergencies, such as forest fires and other natural disasters.

There would also have to be local consultation before a project proceeded.

McIver said if the bill passes, the government will start with a Highway 697 bridge over the Peace River near the hamlet of La Crete, 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, to replace an existing ferry.

“Alberta’s government had planned to replace the ferry with another ferry; however, local residents strongly advocated the construction of a bridge to replace the ferry as they expressed (concerns) the ferry is inconsistent and unreliable,” said McIver.

“The traffic counts simply do not support building a bridge over the Peace River with the traffic count on Highway 697.”

He said those who didn’t want to take the new bridge would still have the option of driving the long way around, which is an hour-and-a-half detour.

Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government is looking for ways to save money and increase revenue. It projected a $6.8-billion deficit this year, but that is expected to balloon to more than $24 billion due to economic havoc from COVID-19.

The question of toll roads came up in early 2019, prior to the election that saw the UCP defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP and form a majority government.

Kenney at that time publicly mused about the possibility of tolls to pay for new roads and bridges for industrial users. Notley warned that Kenney was opening the door to user-pay for new and existing roads and bridges for everyday commuters, an accusation Kenney’s UCP rejected.

Opposition NDP transportation critic Rod Loyola said Tuesday the bill is the start of a new broad road-funding model.

“Tompkins (ferry) Crossing may be the first toll road we see in Alberta, but it will not be the last,” said Loyola.

“I fully expect we will see a proliferation of tolled roads, lanes and bridges over the next 2 1/2 years (of the current government mandate).”

Loyola said the bill is akin to blackmail for municipalities trying to get road projects off the drawing board and into reality.

“This government’s message to Alberta communities is that a project can vault to the front of the line if tolls are imposed,” said Loyola.

“I think that will motivate municipalities to take this route and we will see many, many more of these projects.”

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

file photo
Wetaskiwin, Maskwacis RCMP search warrant seize drugs; numerous charges laid

39-year-old Wetaskiwin man, Wayne Wiebe charged with 21 criminal code offences.

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Ponoka and Maskwacis custodians ‘unsung’ heroes during pandemic

Schools have increased the sanitization of key, high-touch areas

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver on July 2, 2015. Motorists would have to pay a fee to drive into downtown Vancouver under the city's plan to slow climate change but one expert warns it could pose financial hardship for some. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver’s climate plan ‘first 10 steps in a journey of 10,000,’ says expert

Almost 40 per cent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from vehicles

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Britain's Princess Anne The Princess Royal, right, talks to NATO delegates from left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a reception at Buckingham Palace, in London, as Nato leaders attend to mark 70 years of the alliance, Tuesday Dec. 3, 2019.  While NATO leaders are publicly professing unity as they gather for the London summit, several seem to have been caught in an unguarded exchange on camera apparently gossiping about U.S. President Donald Trump’s behaviour. In footage recorded during the Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was seen standing in a huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Britain’s Princess Anne. (Yui Mok/Pool via AP)
Canada, Britain strike new trade, beating Brexit, incorporating expiring EU pact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British counterpart, Boris Johnson, announced the deal Saturday

Most Read