01/26/2015 06:31 EST | Updated 03/28/2015 05:59 EDT

Toll on Serge-Marcil Bridge jumps 60% since opening 2 years ago

On Feb. 1, the toll on the bridge that links Les Cèdres and Salaberry-de-Valleyfield  will go up to almost $13 for heavy trucks, sparking outrage among trucking companies and business leaders.

The increase amounts to a 60 per cent hike since the Serge-Marcil Bridge on Autoroute 30 — just west of Montreal — opened two years ago.

In 2013, it cost $8 for a large truck to cross the bridge.

“It's an outrageous and non-justified increase in today's fragile economy,” said Marc Cadieux, the head of the Quebec Trucking Association.

Cadieux says his members are angry, adding that the added costs could ultimately be transferred to consumers.

“Obviously such an increase will have an effect on consumers at the end. There is a domino effect that will bring the cost of operation, of carrying your goods, up on the sales price of goods."

PPP model

The toll bridge was built using the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

A30 Express, the company that runs the highway extension, says the initial toll was set too low.

“The toll, originally, should have been a little higher than what it was in the first year, which explains this catch-up now,” said A30 Express spokeswoman Sylvie Marier.

About 12,000 vehicles use the bridge every day.

Marier said the company underestimated how popular the span would be.

Government intervention sought

Some trucking and business association leaders are calling on the Quebec government to intervene and denounce the steep toll hikes.

“From a business perspective, this is a dangerous situation where we allow a company to increase tolls that much,” said Michel Leblanc, the president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

“We're saying to government, ‘You're responsible. Well then, act.”

Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poëti would not comment on the toll increase, saying that he’s unable to intervene without breaking the rules of the government's contract with the company.

Leblanc says that’s not good enough.

“We're saying to governments and to the minister, ‘When you signed that document, did you make sure in those contracts that you retained a means of controlling the increase? If so, then exercise that right. If you didn't do it, then perhaps you have to explain yourself and make sure in the future, when we have more tolls, make sure you retain that right,'” Leblanc said.

He said he’s hoping for a response from the government before the toll hike takes effect on Sunday.