Tolling the Sea to Sky

The Beautiful Sea to Sky Highway

Why it needs to be done

As the result of 6 years construction and delays, improvements to the Sea to Sky brought 120 kilometres of improved road, 260 000 tonnes of new pristine concrete, highly reflective pavement markers, 80 kilometres of new passing lanes, median and shoulder barriers, improved sightlines resulting in more constant speeds & shorter travel times, and don’t take for granted the new centre and shoulder rubble strips. It’s all in the picture above. 

Cost to Taxpayers: >$800 million Capital Cost, with $790 million in maintenance costs over 25 years.

Cost to Users: $0

First, lets review the math: 790 million over 25 years is equal to about $86 600 per day, for the next 25 years, and with about 15000 vehicles per day on the section from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish, it works out to a $5.77 toll on the road one way from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish. This is a conservative estimate, as it doesn’t take into account that car volumes on the Squamish-Whistler portion is significantly lower. The round trip would double the cost to $11.54.

A similar number can be calculated in a different way: The distance Horseshoe Bay-Whistler along the Sea to Sky is about 100 km (62.5 mi), and with cars imposing 6.5 cents per mile in road service costs, it means that a car costs the road $4.06 one way, or a $8.12 round trip.

This is unfair, and just doesn’t make sense. Why are the people in Prince George, Kelowna, and the millions in Metro Vancouver subsidizing the few people who actually use it?

The Solution:

Implement a toll booth between Lions Bay and Furry Creek of $5. This will only apply to Northbound travelers; southbound travelers don’t need to pay a toll. With a $5 toll, the government can recoup at least 1/2 of the maintenance cost.

This toll is aimed at skiers and vacationers, who drive the 200 km on the Sea to Sky without paying a penny. $5 can’t be much, compared to the $70 they are spending sking, and 20-30 litres ($27-$40) of gas.

How it will work:

Like the historic toll booths on Hwy 5, and the current ones on the Golden Ears Bridge, Northbound drivers can choose between paying at the booth, or online/by mail. Southbound travelers can just travel through like normal.

An ideal location would be between Lions Bay and Furry Creek. Though this section of the Sea to Sky is full of cliffs, there are portions (specifically where the viewpoints are) that are at no risk to a landslide.

Since this toll is not targeted at residents in the communities along the Sea to Sky, the residents and businesses in those communities will receive one vehicle per household and business that can travel through the toll booth at no charge. ie. the businesses and residents of Furry Creek, Britannia Beach, etc. get one vehicle per property that can travel through the toll free of charge. Note: this can be any BC license plate that can be exempted, whether in Vancouver, or a neighbors.

A diagram of the Toll Booths (Purple)

At the location of the toll booth, there should be one through lane in each direction, with 4 toll booth lanes. Those Northbound travelers who elect to pay by mail/online, or are exempted from the fee, can go through without pausing like usual (similar to the Golden Ears Bridge).

Results & Impact:

This toll will generate approximately $37500 daily, or $13.7 million annually. Buses of course, are exempted from this toll, and the money can be used to pay for transportation projects in the Metro Vancouver Region. (Possibly, it can fund a transit service to Squamish! (Page 14, 4th paragraph))

BC parks like Porteau Cove, and Stawamus Chief, may be most severely impacted by the toll. But the $$ that is lost by those popular parks can be offset by the toll $$. The Whistler-Blackcomb Resort, and tourism in Whistler should not be severely affected, considering the amount they are already spending for a day on the slopes. Another region that the toll may impact are the family visits. But review the math above, and its not likely that $5 is going to change your trip.

If fun goers really want to save, and still have fun, they can consider taking Greyhound ($44 return), or buying the Ride and Ski Packages ($98 for return and pass).

Like all ‘tax hikes’, this one won’t come without criticism. Crtics might say that this adds another cost to already cashed strapped parents trying to keep their head above the water. What do you think? Do the people who drive up the Sea to Sky deserve 200 kilometers of free road at the expense of everyone else in BC?