09/12/2012 05:56 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. halves tolls on Port Mann Bridge

The B.C. government is reducing the tolls on the new Port Mann Bridge to $1.50 from $3 for cars — but just for the first year.

Previous plans were for car drivers to shell out $3 each way to use the new bridge, or as much as $1,500 a year for daily commuters — and more for drivers of larger vehicles.

The announcement was made Wednesday by B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak.

"Drivers who register for a free windshield decal and tolling account by Feb. 28, 2013 will be guaranteed the half-price introductory toll rate for the first year," Polak said in a release.

"As a further incentive to register, drivers who sign up before Nov. 30, 2012 will receive a $30-credit on their account, equivalent to 20 free trips for passenger vehicles."

Registered users will also be eligible for various discounts and incentives, including a 25-per-cent discount during peak hours for HOV users, resulting in a reduced rate of $1.13, the release said.

Polak said the introductory toll rate, $30 credit and other discounts will provide an incentive for drivers to register for a free tolling account.

The tolls will start when eight lanes of the 10-lane bridge between Coquitlam and Surrey open in December.

NDP Transportation critic Harry Bains says it's no accident the reduction will take effect just before the next election, when the unpopular tolls are expected to be a big issue for voters.

"This government has a history of saying anything, doing anything just before the election to stay in power. That's their history and I think they'll do the same thing before this election," said Bains.