Toronto mayor John Tory is stepping up to the plate and taking a stand on the thorny issue of revenue sources for his city. He is proposing road tolls for the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. He is receiving a lot of support from editorialists and urban planning watchers.
It’s not surprising that Wellington County planners have their eyes on the road toll technique, as well. The rumour that we hear has our westerly access roads to and from the County, that is, County Road 33, also known as the Loyalist Parkway and County Road 64, which leads into Brighton, being turned into toll roads in time for the spring 2017 tourist season. Of course, it’s just that, now, a rumour, but where there’s smoke, there’s sometimes fire.
What would be the rationale for toll roads? Well, to put it bluntly, the County can’t afford to keep its roads repaired. It has a triage list and is still unable to tackle all those roads requiring the most urgent repair. Something has to give. Even Union Road will have to wait at least two years for another repaving.
The question is why now. There is a sense that the timing is right. ‘If Toronto is going to do it, then we might as well follow suit quickly’ is the line that the rumour mill feeds us. There is also the sense that the County is on the cusp of international recognition as the Very Best, the Hippest Place in the Whole Wide World; why not charge to come here, if they’re keen to come?
Are toll roads that easy to set up? Well, technically you may need provincial consent. Yet, the timing is good for this as well, as the government of the day senses it is for some reason unpopular in rural Ontario.
Why only two roads; why not include Highway 62 and County Road 49, as well, and the Loyalist Parkway by the Glenora Ferry, for that matter. The County wants to proceed cautiously with road tolls, in case there is a backlash.
Thus, the County is proposing only to charge traffic coming from the west. That is, in essence, the Toronto area, where real estate is even more expensive than it is in the County. It only wants to charge those visitors from points west that are so much of a hurry to get here; they can’t afford to take the time to drive through to Belleville to enter via Highway 62.
Will everybody have to pay the toll? No, vehicles registered to County residents will be exempt.
How will the tolls road operate? The County has apparently done a cost-benefit analysis of high tech cameras and invoicing systems. One source told us that the models show a quick payback, but lower cost alternatives are not yet ruled out: “We have such a great pool of volunteers in the County, church groups and service clubs and so on, that we may try the old change bucket route.”
How much will the toll be? The most frequently mentioned target is about five dollars per trip. Speaking on background, our source said, “We’re inclined to start if off high and see what the traffic will bear. We’re also considering flex tolls that would be higher in summertime and even higher on summer weekends. There could even be a zero toll in February.”
How long will the toll roads be? On County Road 64, the toll stretch runs from the County boundary, south of the Murray Canal Bridge, to the Gardenville Road intersection. On County Road 33, the toll road will stretch from the County Boundary, south of the Murray Canal Bridge, to the Carrying Place traffic light. “It’s not the length of the road that counts,” notes a source; “It’s how effectively it ensnares the motorist.”
Will toll roads cause congestion? County planners appear confident that it won’t. The biggest reason is that such a toll system requires both lanes roads dedicated to inbound traffic. This allows the County to collect tolls twice as fast.
“Our surveys show us that residents who are used to exiting the County on County Roads 64 and 33 will be prepared to ‘take one for the team’ and exit by some other means, even if it means some extra distance for them to travel,” our source said. “Besides, they can still come back home the usual way, toll free.”
County planners contacted by the Times, said the proposed toll road system would not be a panacea and that additional transportation issues, such as the lack of a roundabout in Wellington, remain unaddressed. No source would speak for the record.
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