Proposal will significantly raise New York Thruway toll fees

| Monday, April 11, 2005

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
aaron_ladage@landlinemag.com

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