Niagara bridge tolls to increase Feb. 1

| 1/19/2007

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission will launch its first toll increases in nine years on Feb. 1, but the reason isn't entirely based on increased costs. Tolls for five-axle trucks will go up 30 percent.

Costs are going up, as commissioners stated in a press release issued at the beginning of the year, but those commissioners are citing a "prolonged weakness in the U.S. dollar" as another reason.

The Niagara region shares common ties on both the U.S. and Canadian side. While the U.S. dollar has weakened on world markets, the Canadian dollar has been steadily above 85 cents on the U.S. dollar for several months - something not seen for decades.

Economics prompted the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission to increase tolls on five-axle trucks from $13 to $17 U.S. at the Lewiston-Queenston crossing. Each additional axle is $4 per axle. Tolls on passenger vehicles will increase from $2.50 to $3 U.S.

"The Commission has been successful in controlling costs to our customers, but we have held the line on the diminished U.S. dollar as long as we could," general manager Thomas Garlock stated on the commission Web site.

Tolls were last increased in 1998, despite a planned increase in 2001.

According to the bridge commission's Web site, the terms of bonds issued by the commission in 1993 for capital improvements called for a series of toll increases, with the last scheduled increase to be in November 2001. By delaying that increase until now, the commission says motorists crossing the three bridges have saved, cumulatively, more than $12 million.

The Niagara region has three bridge/border crossing points between New York and the Canadian province of Ontario, with 12 million crossings per year.

Truckers must use the Lewiston-Queenston crossing to connect between Niagara Falls, NY, and Niagara Falls, Ontario. Commercial trucks are not permitted on the Rainbow Bridge or the Whirlpool Bridge, which are for tourists and local residents.

The commission hopes to make improvements in 2007 to the Queenston Plaza, according to the press release.