At its quarterly meeting today, the Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) voted to roll back passenger vehicle tolls this October 31 to $1.25, the same rate motorists paid when the bridge opened 50 years ago.
"The SSMBA board members and International Bridge Administration (IBA) wanted to do something very special to show our gratitude to our customers and our bi-national community on the 50th anniversary date," said IBA General Manager Phil Becker. "Rolling back the toll seemed a very fitting way to show that appreciation."
The $3 toll rate for passenger vehicles and $2.10 rate for Prox Card customers will be reduced to $1.25 (U.S. and Canadian currency) per crossing between the hours of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30, and 10 p.m. on Wednesday, October 31.
"This will require a significant amount of work to reprogram our toll collection software and other back-office adjustments," said IBA Chief Financial Officer Peter Petainen. "We limited the reduced toll rate to the largest two of the 17 toll classifications, and we aligned the 24-hour reduction with our usual 10 p.m.-to-10 p.m. business day to make this doable."
Petainen estimates that based on traffic levels from October 31, 2011, the toll reduction will cost the bridge $6,000 in revenue.
Other activities planned for the October 31 anniversary day celebration include a commemorative luncheon at Lake Superior State University's Cisler Center for invited guests, the public unveiling of a 50th anniversary plaque, and commemorative memorabilia giveaways to toll customers.
Other SSMBA meeting reports regarding the 50th anniversary included an IBA summary of the very successful 50th anniversary bridge lighting event on June 28, and the overwhelming positive response to the bridge lighting from the community.
The board was briefed on the safety and community cooperation evident at the June 30 bridge walk, which included a record-breaking crowd of an estimated 5,000 walkers.
The board also received an update on 50th anniversary educational and community group outreach efforts by the IBA.
The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge is totally self-funded, primarily through tolls, and receives no operational subsidy from any state, provincial, or federal source.
The IBA expects to spend an estimated $50 million in the next 15 years on toll plaza renovations, bridge painting, and concrete bridge deck maintenance projects.