Tolls should offset damage done by vehicles

 

By Bruce Rhodes

 

January 15, 2004

 

Re: Tough for motorists to criticize 407 tolls when usage on rise, editorial, Jan. 8.

 

I use Hwy 407 and I agree with The Liberal’s stance motorists ought not to criticize toll hikes when usage is on the rise.

 

Each of us chooses whether or not to use Hwy. 407. With its long exit ramps and gradual curves, the 407 is a well-engineered, safe highway. Certainly, as tolls rise, drivers will question just how much this safety and convenience is worth. Fair enough if some drivers opt out.

 

In general, tolls highways have a big potential benefit: they communicate and pass on more of the true total costs of driving (in the form of costs borne by our environment from toxic vehicle emissions) directly to motorists themselves.

 

In Ontario, however, much of this potential benefit was thrown away for good when the Tory government sold the highway to private interests.

 

Since that time, toll proceeds, which, if the 407 had remained in public hands, could have been used to fund public transit infrastructure, plant trees in urban areas and build windmills to generate clean, renewable energy for our homes, are instead funneled to foreign corporate interests.

 

In other words, 407 tolls levied on motorists are not spent on compensating for the environmental damage done by us drivers.

 

The provincial Liberals are now tempted to wrestle with 407 management over tolls levels; what a waste of our government’s time.

 

My advice to Dalton McGuinty:

 

Ø      Let the 407 owners do what they want with tolls, as long as they honour their contractual obligations. I predict tolls can climb a lot higher without overall usage shrinking.

 

Ø      Convert 400-series highways in Ontario to toll roads, but keep them in government hands. I would happily pay $15 to drive up Hwy. 400 on a Friday afternoon if I knew toll proceeds were funding initiatives to reduce our damaging and unsustainable reliance on motor vehicle usage.