A Maple Ridge couple is questioning the toll system on the Golden Ears Bridge after learning people with disabilities will be exempt from paying tolls on the new Port Mann Bridge.
Father of five Terry Law has been unable to work after suffering a traumatic brain injury while camping with friends almost a decade ago.
Because both his wife's parents and his mother, as well as his doctor, are on the south side of the Fraser, he crosses the Golden Ears Bridge several times a month.
Now, before he can get his insurance renewed, he must fork over more than $200 to pay his toll bill. If he was crossing the Port Mann, he'd be exempt.
"We would see our family a lot more if we weren't always thinking about the cost," said Terry's wife, Cory.
Paying the tolls is like a "slap in the face, on top of all the other hardships," she added.
Cory works two jobs. he couple still has three children living at home, ages 7, 10 and 15. Cory learned about the Port Mann toll exemption for people on permanent disability benefits when her mom called with the news.
"I was confused because I thought both bridges would be the same," she said.
In fact, while the Port Mann is operated by Transportation Investment Corporation (TI Corp), a Crown company, the Golden Ears is a TransLink bridge.
TI Corp spokesman Greg Johnson said the approach taken by TI is consistent with government and Crown company policies to provide discounts for people with disabilities.
He estimated fewer than 100 people had registered for the exemption so far, but expected that number to grow when the bridge opens Dec. 1 and tolling begins Dec. 8. TransLink responded with a statement confirming there are no toll exemptions for people with disabilities on the Golden Ears, but "a review is underway" of TransLink's pricing and funding strategy.
"This is to ensure that these methods are equitable, while we manage taxpayers' assets wisely."
TransLink does offer concession fares to people with disabilities on SkyTrain and buses, in addition to free passes for some employees and their families. However, employees are not exempt from the bridge tolls.
For the Laws, the Golden Ears toll is an extra burden on top of their day-to-day struggles.
"Life is hard enough without having to pay extra to get to the doctor," Cory said.
-Glenda Luymes is with The Province
@ Copyright 2013