If you’re driving through New York, grab your wallets – a
proposed toll increase on the New York Thruway will have you paying dearly.
The New York Thruway Authority is considering raising toll
fees on the 641-mile thruway, the country’s longest toll road. The proposed new
rates would mean an average increase of 35 percent for commercial vehicles and
a 25 percent increase for four-wheelers.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said the
proposed rates are far too high.
“There aren’t any entities that I’m aware of in our society
that can opt to boost prices by 35 percent at a time and expect that to be a
rate that consumers would take advantage of, or that wouldn’t send customers
fleeing in droves,” Spencer said. “Why in the world would the thruway authority
believe they can justify such a tremendous increase?”
According to a Newsday article, the cost for a
commercial truck with a 48-foot trailer traveling from Albany to Buffalo would
increase by more than 60 percent to $53.75, up from a current cost of $32.70.
Officials originally planned to remove tolls from the
thruway in 1996, after the bonds that financed its original construction had
been paid off. However, state officials abandoned the plan early on after it
was decided that the highway’s users should foot the bill for upkeep of the
road instead of all state taxpayers.
Michael Fleischer, executive director of the authority, told Newsday that the added revenue – which could total approximately $150
million each year – would be used for system maintenance and to make
improvements, including 500 miles of new or upgraded roadway, additional
E-ZPass lanes, more than 200 bridge upgrades and 695 additional large truck
parking spaces at rest stops.
Although some of the improvements to the thruway could
benefit owner-operators, Spencer said the additional cost to owner-operators
far outweigh their value.
“One of the significant issues with the New York Thruway is
that the payment of tolls is not directly tied to highway repair or
maintenance,” Spencer said. “That is simply money that is used for a variety of
purposes that have absolutely nothing to do with maintaining the toll road.”
Spencer also said that the increase for commercial vehicles
is unfairly disproportionate to that of passenger vehicles.
“The fact that there’s a different percentage certainly
means that commercial vehicles are being targeted beyond the general public,
and we certainly don’t see any justification for that – they’re already paying
a higher rate based on their size,” Spencer said. “Those trucks and other
commercial vehicles obviously are there because the product that they bring is
essential to the citizens of New York. All that ends up happening is they
ultimately boost the cost of the goods that have to be delivered to or picked
up in New York.”
Anyone with comments or questions about the proposed toll
hike can contact the New York Thruway Authority by phone at (518) 436-2983, by
e-mail at PublicInfo@thruway.state.ny.us or by mail at: 200 Southern Blvd., Albany, NY, 12209.
– By Aaron Ladage, Land Line staff