January 20, 2016
Fredericton – The provincial government has released more details on choices related to highway tolls that could be pursued if the decision to implement tolls is taken as part of the Strategic Program Review.
It is important that New Brunswickers have all the information related to tolls so they can fully appreciate what the impact would be.
Electronic toll collection yields greater revenue with lower cost than manned tolling facilities. A one-time capital investment of about $16 million would be required to implement a network of eight electronic toll stations in New Brunswick with ongoing operations and maintenance of the network estimated to be $4 million annually. Electronic tolls would also require reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions in order to permit tolling of visitors from outside New Brunswick. The difficulty in securing reciprocal agreements would have to be considered in any decision about whether to construct manned toll booths or electronic tolling stations.
The report Choices to move New Brunswick forward presented a possibility of eight electronic toll facilities throughout the province which would increase provincial revenues by about $60 million. With this model and based on average traffic volumes, the rates would be about 3¢/km for cars and 12¢/km for trucks. This would result in a round-trip cost of about $9 per car and $36 per truck to drive between Moncton and Saint John while the cost of a trip between Moncton and Edmundston for a car would be about $24 and the cost for a truck would be $96.
The idea of tolls was raised during consultations but there was disagreement as to where they should be located. We have looked at different models and each would have a different impact on drivers both local and visiting.
Two other possible toll models would be:
· Placing electronic tolls at the four major border points in the province (Aulac, Edmundston, Woodstock, and St. Stephen). Under this model, about $43 million could be generated from a round-trip toll of $10 per car and $40 per truck. This option would require further study in terms of its compliance with international and domestic trade agreements and constitutional obligations. It could also have ramifications for those making regular trips across the border.
· Placing electronic tolls around the three major cities of Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton. This model could disproportionately impact daily commuters in the province’s three main urban centres. Based on average traffic volumes, a round-trip rate of $6.30 per car and $25.20 per truck would increase revenue by an estimated $60 million. This rate could increase the average commuter’s travel costs by $1,575 annually but could encourage greater use of public transit.
Each of the revenue and toll amounts described above assumes the use of electronic tolling and would be contingent on reciprocal agreements being signed with other North American jurisdictions.
Manned tolling facilities would allow visitors to be charged a toll, but would require an additional $3.5 million in capital costs for construction along with annual operational costs of about $2.7 million per year for each facility. These costs could substantially reduce provincial revenue from tolls but would facilitate administering tolls to out-of-province visitors.
Once you look at the different factors, implementing tolls is a complex exercise. When making these tough choices, we need to ensure that no region or segment of the population is unduly affected.
Introducing highway tolls are one of the six key initiatives being discussed in the Choices to move New Brunswick Forward report. The others are:
· rightsizing senior management in the civil service;
· reducing spending on health care;
· reducing spending on education;
· increasing the Harmonized Sales Tax; and
· increasing the Corporate Income Tax.
The public is encouraged to find out more about this choice and the Strategic Program Review online.