50 years ago today the last toll was paid on the Burlington Skyway

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Published December 28, 2023 at 10:29 am

Anthony Urciuoli/hamilton.insauga.com photo
The toll booths were closed for good on Dec. 28, 1973 (Hamilton Historical Commission photo).

Fifty years ago today the last toll was paid.

And it was welcomed news for those who regularly travelled over the Burlington Skyway.

On Dec. 28, 1973, the Ontario government removed the collection booths and no longer asked drivers to pay a fee to cross the bridge.

Motorists had been doing so since the Skyway opened in 1958.

In the beginning, you had to stop at the crest of the bridge to throw a token or cash into a bucket, but with too many drivers missing the mark that system was eventually scrapped and replaced by human collection officers.

While Ontario commuters today might scratch their heads over such a practice on a busy highway, back then it was accepted, the price you had to pay to get across the harbour and avoid winding your way through Burlington and Hamilton to get to where you were going.

The fees ranged from 15 to 45 cents depending on the size of the vehicle, small amounts by today’s standards, but costly in the days when the minimum wage was $1.50 an hour.

Still, the bridge proved to be necessary as it became a key component of the QEW that linked Toronto to the Niagara area allowing for the efficient flow of traffic to the United States and relieving the bottlenecks that previously occurred along the Beach Blvd.

Ultimately, the bridge became too successful and by the mid-70’s there were calls for an expansion.

The original structure, built at a cost of $19 million, was expected to handle 50,000 vehicles a day with two lanes going in each direction. But soon the numbers more than doubled, leading to the second bridge, built in 1985 for $42 million.

But back to the elimination of the tolls.

There are two versions of why they were taken out.

The popular version in 1973 was the bridge was now fully paid for and the money was no longer needed. The other is that traffic chaos and delays for motorists caused by the toll collection were becoming too much of a headache for commuters and the politicians who received the complaints.

For drivers, the reason didn’t matter. In the fall of 1973 the decision was made to eliminate the tolls and 50 years ago today the removal of the booths began.

 

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