Toll increase on NY Thruway only has discounts for E-ZPass, high-volume users

| 4/26/2005

If you were hoping for a break on the New York Thruway toll increase, you’re out of luck – only high-volume users and drivers enrolled in the E-ZPass system will get a special deal.

On Monday, April 25, the New York State Thruway Authority approved a $2.6 billion improvement plan for the 641-mile stretch of road, which, officials said in a press release, includes an average toll increase of 25 percent for four-wheelers and 35 percent for commercial trucks. The new toll prices will go into effect on May 15.

The reduced hikes follow an outcry from members of the trucking community, who said a rate calculator on the Authority’s Web site showed that increases on their rigs could climb far beyond the 35 percent average.

Land Line previously reported the rate calculator on the Authority’s Web site shows increases of 60 percent to 100 percent for many Class 8 vehicles that choose not to use the E-ZPass system.

Michael Fleischer, Executive Director for the Thruway Authority, said the approved plan includes three different methods for commercial drivers to reduce their toll payments:

  • A special E-ZPass discount program that will bring drivers of 48-foot trailers – the group whose increases in the original plan were the highest – back to the 35 percent increase range;
  • An additional 5 percent discount for trucks and 10 percent discount for passenger vehicles who use the E-ZPass system;
  • And a volume discount that would provide a 10 percent discount for drivers who spend over $1,000 a month, an additional 10 percent for $2,000 a month and 5 percent over $3,000 a month. In 2006, the discounted rate will decrease to 5 percent for spending $2,000 a month. Drivers must enroll in the Thruway’s charge account program to receive the volume discount.

Although the discount does lower the rate for drivers using E-ZPass, Fleischer said drivers of 48-foot trailers who choose not to use E-ZPass would still pay the originally proposed rate increase.

“They (non-E-ZPass users) would not see the benefits of the discount programs,” Fleischer said. “The percentages would vary if they don’t have E-ZPass, and some of them would be above the 35 percent.”

Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President of OOIDA, said that even with the special E-ZPass discount, 35 percent is an unrealistic rate hike.

“It’s amazing that turnpike officials would entertain increases in tolls of this magnitude and this level – it’s unconscionable,” Spencer said. “The fact that we have lawmakers in Washington that would like to put every state in that position, to treat highway users in that fashion, is outrageous.”

Originally, tolls on the road were to end after the original bonds that funded the project were paid off in 1996. However, Thruway officials later changed that and said users of the road, not all of the state’s taxpayers, should pay for its upkeep.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer