Questions and answers

 

In January 2021 HHB submitted an application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) requesting a toll increase. The details of the toll increase application can be found here.

HHB’s application prompted several questions. Questions like: who we report to, how we are funded, when will the bridges will be paid for and why do we still pay tolls. Here are the answers to many of those questions. If you have others please let us know by emailing bridges@hdbc.ns.ca.

Why the toll is being increased now and why it is necessary?

The bridges and other infrastructure is getting older and more than $280 million needs to be invested in the next 10 years to ensure they remain safe. While HHB reports to the provincial Minister of Transportation and Active Transit, it is a self-funded organization and does not received funding from any level of government.

What needs to be done on the Macdonald Bridge? The Big Lift just finished.

The Big Lift replaced the suspended spans of the bridge. The remaining work for the Macdonald Bridge includes rehabilitating elements that were not replaced as part of the Big Lift: concrete repairs, steel and paint repairs and the replacement of approach span bearings. Once complete (after 2026) The Macdonald Bridge will require minimum maintenance for at least 30 years.

When was the last toll increase?

The last toll increase application was in 2011 when cash went from $.75 to a $1. Macpass went from $.60 to $.70 in 2011 and $.70 to $.80 in 2012. Before that time the last increase was in 1992.

What is annual revenue for HHB?

In 2019/20 the toll revenue was $31.5 million. Because of the impact the pandemic has had on traffic, the toll revenue for 2020/21 is forecasted to be $25.5 million.

How much more revenue will this increase provide?

If approved the toll increase will add approximately $5 million to the annual toll revenue based on anticipated traffic patterns for 2022.

What percentage of an increase is HHB requesting?

HHB is requesting a 25 per cent increase for all classes of vehicles. For passenger vehicles, which represents 96% of all traffic, Macpass will go from $.80 to $1 and cash will increase from $1 to $1.25.

Who approves toll increases?

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) is required to set the rates, tolls and charges to be paid for use of the two bridges operated by the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission in a like manner to that of a public utility.

If approved, when would the increase come into effect?

HHB has asked for the increase to come into effect January 3, 2022.

 Where does the money from tolls go?

All revenue generated from tolls is used to maintain and operate the two bridges.

The following is how HHB used the revenue from tolls during the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2020:

  • Maintenance costs: 8% (4.3 million)
  • Working capital costs (payment of bills related to the Big Lift): 17% (8.6 million)
  • Administration: 6% (2.8 million)
  • Operations: 9% (4.3 million)
  • Debt reduction: 27% (13.6 million)
  • Interest expense: 9% (4.6 million)
  • Capital investment: 24% (11.9 million)

What the relationship is between HHB and the Government of Nova Scotia?

The Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission was formed in 1950 by the Nova Scotia government to construct, operate and maintain structures that span the Halifax harbour or the Northwest Arm. We report to the Minister of Transportation and Active Transit.

 

Why is the toll increasing by 25% instead of a different amount? How was the amount determined?

The 25% increment is necessary, in part, because the toll equipment is able to accept quarters, and one-dollar and two-dollar coins, but does not accept nickels or dimes. While this is a practical consideration in determining the cash toll increase increment, the primary reason for the proposed toll increase is the 10-year capital, rehabilitation and maintenance plan to maintain and extend the life of the bridges.

Has the building of the bridges been fully paid off?

The bridges as they were built are paid for. Over the years we have had to borrow money to pay for large capital projects including adding the third lane to the Macdonald Bridge in 1999. In 2019/20 HHB invested almost $12 million in capital projects from general revenue. The only debt that currently exists is $151 million HHB borrowed from the province of Nova Scotia to finance the suspended spans redecking project, also known as the Big Lift.

Is the increased toll due to lack of traffic on the bridge caused by COVID-19?

The pandemic has impacted traffic on the bridges but is not the reason why HHB needs a toll increase. The toll increase is needed to complete a 10-year capital plan on both bridges, expected to cost more than $280 million.

How will the replacement of the MacKay bridge impact traffic during construction?

If the MacKay Bridge is replaced a new bridge will be built next to the MacKay while it remains operational. Therefore, the impact to traffic would be minimal. HHB has a feasibility study that indicates that the MacKay Bridge will need to be rebuilt or replaced by 2040. The study looks at many options and the recommended option is to replace it.

The Big Lift App