The Golden Ears Bridge cost more than $800 million to build, but that could be dwarfed by the costs of subsidizing it over the long haul.
Last week, TransLink reported that it will continue losing up to $45 million a year on the structure because so few drivers are crossing the toll bridge.
Traffic growth on the bridge could best be described as minimal, about two to three per cent per year.
TransLink agreed to subsidize the private operator of the bridge until it reaches projected driver numbers.
That's obviously a great deal for the private operator - they're guaranteed a steady income stream no matter what. Either they get a lot of drivers, or everyone in Metro Vancouver pays up through property taxes. It's wonderful to see the private sector taking big risks like that, a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit.
There is no question that the bridge itself, the first crossing any part of the river since the Alex Fraser Bridge was built almost a generation ago, is pretty good. Six lanes, bike and pedestrian access, and it certainly cut down the time to get across from Maple Ridge to Langley.
But it was more bridge than we needed. It's hard to see how ridership numbers will increase much more than they have. There just aren't enough people south of the river who want to head north, or vice versa, on a routine basis.
But the bridge is there, the contracts are signed, and there seems little we can do about the situation for now. Our best bet, both north and south of the river, is to warn the rest of the Lower Mainland not to follow our example.
Do we need a replacement for the Massey Tunnel? Yes. Do we need more rapid transit and light rail? Yes.
But maybe we should replace the bridge's golden eagles with white elephants, as a warning against building too much.
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