Toll increases sought for bridges over Halifax harbour

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Halifax Harbour Bridges is requesting toll increases for its two spans across the harbour.

Cash tolls for cars would increase to $1.25 per crossing from $1, while drivers with a Macpass would be charged $1 per crossing, up from 80 cents.

"I don't like paying more for anything, so I can understand people's frustration and challenge," said Steven Snider, general manager and CEO of Halifax Harbour Bridges.

Commercial vehicles would pay an additional 25 per cent per axle for both cash and Macpass under the proposal.

If approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, the increases would take effect in January 2022.

This is the first time Halifax Harbour Bridges, a self-funding provincial commission, has asked to raise tolls on the Macdonald and MacKay bridges in a decade.

Bridge improvements and maintenance are forecast to cost $280 million over the next decade.

Snider says Halifax Harbour Bridges collects roughly $33 million in tolls in a regular year.

Costly long-term repairs

Without the toll increases, he estimates the commission would face a $150-million shortfall due to the costs of long-term repairs.

Those projects include concrete and steel repairs to both bridges, resurfacing and possibly replacing decking on the MacKay bridge, repairing overpasses leading to the bridges, replacing the Macpass scanning system, and a preliminary design for a replacement for the MacKay Bridge.

The commission's application submitted to the utility and review board has detailed cost estimates for each of these projects.

Snider said he welcomes all public scrutiny the increases may receive.

"It's healthy for us as a community to have a discussion, and ask us for answers to the questions," he said. "It's our responsibility to look after and maintain these bridges. But it's also our responsibility to be accountable to the public."

A public hearing into the toll increases has not yet been scheduled.

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