Remove tolls on Highway 407 Whitby tells Ontario

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Published March 21, 2024 at 11:56 am

highway 407 price increase
Photo: Ken Lund

The town of Whitby has formally called on the Ontario government to remove the tolls on Highway 407 through Durham Region.

While Highway 707 was initially planned in the 1950s it took until 1997 to open the route. By this time, the project’s price tag had ballooned and the province, then under Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris, introduced tolls to try to offset the project costs.

In 1999, the Harris government signed a 99-year lease of a large section of the highway to a group of Canadian and Spanish investors.

This group, now known as 407 ETR Concession Company Limited, now administers much of the highway. Tolls have steadily risen since the lease. Harris promised tolls would rise no more than 30 per cent, but by 2015 they had increased 200 per cent.

As it stands tolls for a light vehicle at peak times are $0.33/kilometre. Therefore the roughly 100-kilometre trip from Clarington will run an average driver around $30 bucks one way, though it costs more for larger vehicles.

While the initial plan was to remove the tolls once the highway was paid of, within 35 years or so, there is no indication the the tolls will ever be removed.

Ontario has removed tolls in Durham Region before. After years of rejecting opposition calls, mostly from Oshawa MPP Jennifer French, the the currently PC Doug Ford government removed tolls on Highway 412 in Whitby and Highway 418 in Clarington.

French’s call to end the 412 and 418 began in 2019 when the current legislature first sat in Queen’s Park. However, the government waited to remove to tolls until just prior to the 2022 Ontario election.

The government said the delay was the result of agreements signed under the previous Liberal Government. When asked why the removal took so long, Ford said, “some things don’t happen overnight.”

In 2024, the Ford government announced it would include a ban on adding any tolls in the future in its Get It Done Act. The bill is set to be introduced in Queen’s Park this spring.

As a result of the ban, the eastern stretch of Highway 407 through Durham Region would be the only tolled route in the province. Whitby said this will create “unfair economic impacts to Durham Region residents and businesses.”

Additionally, Whitby is widening Winchester Road which will reduce the major thoroughfare down to one lane. Dropping tolls on Highway 407 would “improve overall travel times and alleviate the traffic impacts,” per the town.

Whitby joins the Durham Regional governments call to remove the tolls. The Region call for the suspension of tolls at least during the Winchester Road project to avoid “serious gridlock.”

The town and the province have frequently clashed lately, mostly regarding the stalled Whitby hospital. Lakeridge Health chose Whitby to host the new hospital two years ago.

However, the project needs provincial funds to proceed which the government has not released. Ford has recently recommitted to the hospital but has still not earmarked the money.

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