New York Thruway endorses 35 percent toll increase for big trucks

| 12/17/2004

Truckers and other drivers could be paying higher tolls on the New York State Thruway next year for the first time since 1988.

The Thruway Authority’s board endorsed a plan Thursday, Dec. 16, to raise tolls on the 641-mile superhighway to help pay for $2 billion in capital improvements, including more truck parking at rest areas and upgrades of the E-ZPass system.

Tolls for commercial vehicles would go up by 35 percent if the proposal becomes reality and passenger vehicles would pay as much as 25 percent more starting in May.

Included in the plan are discounts for E-ZPass users. If the proposed toll increases go into effect, commercial drivers would pay 19.7 cents per mile, up from 14.6. Truckers using EZ Pass would pay 18.7 cents per mile. Car drivers would pay 3.9 cents per mile, up from 3.1. Motorists with E-ZPass would pay 3.5 cents per mile.

Plans call for adding 15 new E-ZPass lanes to existing toll collection areas across the state and 12 higher-speed lanes. Another 16 new highway-speed lanes allowing drivers of E-ZPass-equipped vehicles to pay tolls without slowing down would be added at certain locations.

Officials hope the improvements can alleviate long back-ups common at the busiest toll plazas.

With the proposal, Thruway improvements in the next six years would include 500 miles of new or upgraded roadway, more than 220 upgraded bridges, noise barriers at several locations and 695 new large truck parking spaces at rest stops.

The area around Buffalo would gain 89 truck spaces; the Syracuse area, 250; Albany, 196; and 160 would be added near New York.

After public hearings scheduled to start in February, Thruway board – controlled by Gov. George Pataki – will take the issue up again at its April meeting. If it’s passed then, the toll increase will take effect May. 1.

The toll hike would bring the total amount collected in tolls from a projected $440 million this year to $608 million by 2006, The Buffalo News reported.

The plan does not require the approval of Pataki or the Legislature.

Tolls on the Thruway were supposed to disappear in 1996, when the original bonds that financed construction were to have been paid off. But state officials abandoned that plan in the 1980s when they decided users of the highway should pay for its maintenance instead of all taxpayers.