Montreal, Quebec – A new report published by the Montreal Economic Institute says that implanting electronic tolls on all of Quebec’s main highways would bring in up to $1.6 billion that could be used for infrastructure. The report examines four scenarios for instituting charges of this type.
Economist Mathieu Laberge, the study’s author, said that “a return to tolls would be helpful in guaranteeing stable financing for maintenance and rebuilding of the highway network, as well as minimizing traffic jams and slowing growth of the government debt.”
Laberge suggests a “network” approach, under which all highways with sufficient traffic volume would be subject to tolls, rather than tolls being applied only to new infrastructure, and that the income should be used exclusively for maintaining and rebuilding infrastructure near where they are collected. Any other use would constitute a hidden tax.
Tolls disappeared in Quebec in the 1980s, but will return with the new Highway 25 bridge and Highway 30 extension. The study examined the scenarios of tolls on Montreal Island bridges, highways in the Montreal area, highways around major urban areas, and all main highways in Quebec. The last of these is the most attractive, the report says, because by affecting most Quebec motorists, it would help reduce implicit subsidies to motorists who do not live near the major urban areas.
A round trip between Montreal and Quebec City would cost about $30; for a suburbanite who crosses a bridge in the morning and evening rush hours, the daily cost would be $4.80, for a yearly total of $1,200. The Montreal Island bridges alone would generate revenues of $449 million, an amount likely to be well in excess of the bridges’ maintenance, depreciation and administration costs, with tolls aimed not only at covering costs but also at reducing traffic jams. The full document can be viewed at IEDM.org.