Temp Pan Am HOV lanes could become toll lanes
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne vague but committed to “hot” provincial lanes to fund transportation infrastructure.
TORONTO — Temporary High Occupancy Vehicle lanes set up in the Toronto and Hamilton area for the Pan Am Games will not become permanent, but Premier Kathleen Wynne said they will likely return in the form of toll lanes.
Wynne said she wants to apply lessons learned from the 235 kilometres of temporary HOV lanes set up this summer on the Queen Elizabeth Way, some 400-series highways, the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to creating toll lanes.
“We have made a commitment in two budgets that we would implement high occupancy toll (lanes), but whether the configurations that have been put in place on provincial roads for the Pan Am games are exactly what will transpire when we put in place the HOT lanes, that is not our plan at this moment,” she said. “But we have committed to HOT lanes, and we maintain that commitment.”
The Liberal plan would let motorists without passengers pay to use HOV lanes normally reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger, which was increased to a minimum of three people for the duration of the Pan Am games. Money generated by the tolls would help fund a $130-billion, 10-year transit and infrastructure plan.
The temporary HOV lanes, which will stay in place until the end of the ParaPan Games in August, have already convinced some drivers to change the way they get around the area, said Wynne.
“I have heard that people have noticed behaviour changes and that is what putting in place HOV lanes is meant to do,” she said. “We believe that the revenue from High Occupancy Toll lanes put into a fund to fund public transit is an important source of revenue, and we will be working towards implementing those.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city must eventually decide whether to place toll lanes on the municipally governed Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. But Tory said the city will wait until the province decides where its new toll lanes will go so the two governments could create what he calls a “sensible network” for drivers.
“The province will make its decision, as we obviously have some decisions to make with respect to roads that are in our jurisdiction, but it should be based on the facts and based on the experience,” he said. “I haven’t heard any announcement from the government of Ontario on the when, where and how, but I’m mindful there was a commitment so it should be no surprise to anybody.”
Tory said he’d heard that some of the temporary HOV lanes were not getting enough use, but Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said “they’ve been very successful.”
The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation called the proposal for permanent toll lanes on some Ontario highways “nothing more than a money grab” and said Wynne should “get her hands out of drivers’ pockets.”
© 2015 The Canadian Press