Residents oppose bridge toll

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The Ashburton River bridge. Photo Ashburton District Council.
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Rangitata MP James Meager is surprised most Mid Cantabrians are opposed to paying a road toll to fund the new Ashburton bridge project.

Meager said he agreed with Minister of Transport Simeon Brown who visited Ashburton last month and spoke of a toll on the current bridge and/or proposed bridge.

A Facebook poll by The Ashburton Courier shows in more than 200 responses by Monday, more than 90 per cent of people said no to a toll.

‘‘It was a little surprising,’’ Meager said of the results.

‘‘A lot of people are telling me ‘Why don’t we just toll it’.’’

‘‘Ultimately I am supportive of any funding arrangement which means that we can build the new bridge as quickly as possible. We can’t afford to spend another ten years talking about, let’s just get on and get it built.’’

The government’s draft policy statement on land transport released in March proposes more tolling nationwide as a way forward to construct new roads.

Meager said other funding options for such infrastructure include eventually replacing petrol excise with road user charges on all vehicles so those who used the roads the most contributed the most.

He said the government was also open to looking at other funding methods, such as ‘‘value capture’’ where revenue is collected from properties directly benefiting from the infrastructure investment.

Minister of Transport Simeon Brown and Rangitata MP James Meager open Meager’s electorate office in Ashburton recently. Photo Toni Williams.

Comments from poll respondents against tolling the Ashburton bridges included:

‘‘No way! Think of all the people who use the bridge both ways for travel to and from work!!’’ ‘‘It’s not fair to Tinwald residents especially.’’ ‘‘You want us to pay a tax to go to College? Hospital? Church? Play Sport? Go to movies etc,etc,etc, NO WAY’’ ‘‘With intermediate and college both north side be hard on families and other workers as well.’’ Comments from the minority of people saying yes to a toll included: ‘‘If it gets done pronto dam straight.’’ ‘‘Yes I would be happy to pay a toll. As crossing a bridge has been part of my life.’’

‘‘Build the bridge first and then put a toll on the new bridge and bypass locals would use the older one.’’

‘‘Yes if it means not waiting in traffic for 30mins to an hour. To be honest while you wait in traffic you probably burn the equivalent amount of fuel it cost as you would when paying a toll.’’