Council to hear about International Bridge toll increasesFriday, September 06, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
International Bridge Authority (IBA) General Manager Phil Becker is scheduled to brief Sault Ste. Marie City Council Monday regarding proposed toll rate increases.
The Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) is holding public hearings in Ontario and Michigan this month in order to give bridge users a chance to review and comment on the proposed increases.
The proposed increases were announced by the SSMBA August 15 and would, if approved, go into effect April 1, 2014.
A public hearing will be held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on Tuesday, September 10 at 7 p.m. at the Delta Waterfront Hotel.
Passenger vehicle tolls would increase from $3 to $3.50 per trip April 1, 2014, and from $3.50 to $4 April 1, 2019.
Prox Card users would receive discounts, under a revised Prox Card program, ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent, based on the number of bridge crossings within a 30 day period.
Current SSMBA numbers show that 54 percent of Prox Card customers would receive a 30 percent discount, meaning a trip would cost $2.45 in 2014 and $2.80 in 2019, if those customers cross the bridge more than eight times within a 30 day period.
The proposed increases, recommended by the SSMBA Board of Directors, stem from an International Bridge long-range financial plan that includes operational and capital improvement needs for the bridge over the next 30 years.
The International Bridge opened to traffic in 1962 and cost $20 million to construct.
That cost was paid off in 2000, but the cost of repainting, bridge repair and maintenance continues.
Bridge officials estimate $50 million will need to be spent over the next 15 years on bridge repair and plaza projects.
The proposed toll increases are deemed necessary, as the Bridge receives no federal, state or provincial funding, and relies almost completely on toll revenue to operate (a small amount of funding comes from property leases and interest income).
Annual toll revenues are, on average, $7 million (U.S.), with $4.3 million (U.S.) of that amount going toward operation and maintenance.
Traffic peaked at 3.6 million crossings in 1992 and hit a 24-year low in 2009 with 1.67 million crossings.
Traffic has since rebounded at an annual rate of 7 percent, with 2.07 million crossings in 2012.
The International Bridge currently has the third-lowest toll rate among the 11 border crossings between Ontario and the U.S.
A public hearing regarding the proposed toll increases was scheduled to take place last Wednesday in Lansing, Michigan.
Following Tuesday's public hearing in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, another will be held at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan's Ramada Plaza Hotel on Portage Avenue Wednesday, September 11 at 7 p.m.