New York Assembly OKs bill to kill some tolls

| 6/19/2008

The New York State Assembly has approved a bill that would eliminate a toll plaza from Interstate 95. Another bill would remove a separate toll facility.

Assembly lawmakers voted 87-47 to advance a bill to the Senate that would require the New York State Thruway Authority to stop collecting tolls at the New Rochelle toll plaza on the New England section of the roadway.

Sponsored by Assemblyman George Latimer, D-Rye, the bill cleared the Assembly shortly after the Thruway Authority voted to raise tolls on roads and bridges. The agency acted despite objections from Gov. David Paterson and other state leaders.

Latimer said the Authority’s actions to increase tolls by 5 percent in 2009 and an additional 5 percent in 2010 spurred passage of the bill to dismantle tolls.

Advocates for the toll removal say commuters from Westchester, the Bronx and Manhattan pay a disproportionate fee to access this section of the Thruway. Traffic also diverts onto local roads to avoid paying, they say.

Others cite noise and air pollution from traffic tie-ups at the toll plaza for pursuing the change.

Opponents say that eliminating the toll plaza would be a devastating blow to the Thruway Authority, which doesn’t get state tax dollars. About two thirds of the traffic on the Thruway is composed of passenger vehicles while commercial trucks make up the other third.

A similar effort in the Assembly would eliminate the Yonkers toll plaza. Supporters say change is needed there because locals must pay to drive as little as two miles between exits.

They also say congestion at the Yonkers facility is similar to traffic at the Spring Valley toll plaza. Tolls at Spring Valley are slated to be discontinued because of the amount of traffic congestion experienced at the facility.

The bill – A10299 is in the Assembly Transportation Committee. Latimer’s bill – A1220 – has moved to the Senate Rules Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor