NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Toll hikes are now in effect at most of the international bridge crossings heading from Western New York to Canada.
Those toll hikes went into effect on Monday with no advanced warning, advisory or public input from the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission.
The Commission said the rate hikes are needed to try to recoup money lost during the pandemic.
Congressman Brian Higgins is not happy about the toll hikes and how they were rolled out.
Toll rates have been increased across the board at the Rainbow, Whirlpool and Lewiston-Queenston bridges. Rates at the Peace Bridge have not been affected, because it’s governed by a separate bridge commission.
Toll hikes are now in effect for buses, RV’s, limos and trucks, but most people will probably notice the toll increase for cars from $4 to $5.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission voted on the toll hikes last week on July 25 and the new rates went into effect a week later on August 1, with little to no heads up.
“There should of been a public hearing, a public notification and a public hearing, so people could weigh in and I think that you know you would glean from that better information as to where the real problem exists,” Higgins said, “I would say the better response would be to increase and work with the Canadian-U.S. government to lift all of the Covid restrictions that exist right now, we have high level of vaccination rates both for people from the United States and Canada.”
Higgins has been very critical of both the U.S. and Canadian governments in their handling of border restrictions during the pandemic. He has repeatedly called for Canada to do away with testing requirements and the use of Canada’s ARRIVECAN app, calling it a hassle.
According to documents from the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, car traffic heading to Canada was down 73 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, due to border restrictions. Westbound — toll paying — car traffic was down 67 percent in 2020 due to Covid. The vast majority of revenue for local bridge authorities comes from tolls.
Last year, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission says expenses outpaced tolls by $7 million.
The NFBC issued this statement:
“The NFBC recently increased its toll rates at the three Niagara Region border crossings managed by the Commission. As the NFBC does not do an annual toll increase, this change was reflective of economic conditions and reduced operational revenue due to pandemic traffic reductions and inflationary impacts. The toll rates at NFBC crossings do remain at or below the average toll rates of other comparable U.S.-Canada border crossings. This increase went into effect on August 1, 2022, following approval by the commissioners on July 25, 2022.”
Higgins says the toll hikes will be a further deterrent for people crossing the border. The executive director of the Peace Bridge Ron Reinas says there are no plans to increase tolls there.
Reinas in a phone conversations says he’s not surprised by the rate increases and notes that compared to other bridge crossings, the rates locally are still a lot lower. Reinas says the bridge is not operating at a deficit or a loss due to the pandemic, but instead, still operating at a small surplus.
Paul Wozniak of Niagara Falls says he has family in Canada and says he’d prefer not to have follow all the requirements to cross into Canada.
“Back in the day it was so easy, you didn’t need nothing, you just went now, you gotta go and have special things, special this, I’m all boosted and Covid, all that you’re still going to get problems,” Wozniak said.
He questions where the toll money is going.
“I don’t see no improvement, the lines get longer or the time takes longer. I don’t see any improvement anywhere, what are you paying the extra for?” Wozniak said.
New toll rates
Auto: $5 US, $6.50 Canadian (previous: $4, $5.50)
Cost is the same for E-ZPass, ExpressPass, Nexus/Toll or In Tow per Axle.
RV/Limo (per Axle): $5 US, $6.50 Canadian (previous: $4, $5.50)
Bus (2 axel): $15 US, $20 Canadian (previous: $12, $15)
Bus (3 axel): $20 US, $26 Canadian (previous: $15, $20)
Commercial: As follows below.
- 2 Axles: $7 US, $9 Canadian (previous: $6, $8)
- 3 Axles: $13 US, $17 Canadian (previous: $11, $15)
- 4 Axles: $22 US, $29 Canadian (previous: $20, $26)
- 5 Axles: $32 US, $42 Canadian (previous: $30, $39)
- 6 Axles: $46 US, $60 Canadian (previous: $44, $57)
- 7 Axles: $61 US, $79 Canadian (previous: $57, $74)
- 8 Axles: $74 US, $96 Canadian (previous: $68, $88)
- 9 Axles: $89 US, $116 Canadian (previous: $80, $103)
- 10 Axles: $104 US, $135 Canadian (previous: $95, $123)
- 11 Axles: $119 US, $155 Canadian (previous: $110, $142)
- 12 Axles: $134 US, $174 Canadian (previous: $120, $155.50)
The latest toll rates can be found here.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.