Lawmaker backs plan to remove tolls from NY Thruway near Buffalo

| Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A movement to have tolls removed from a stretch of the New York Thruway that runs through downtown Buffalo has received some more powerful backing.

U.S. Representative Brian Higgins, D-NY, has promised to introduce a bill in the House that would withhold federal funding from the Thruway if the booths are not taken down. Higgins, a Buffalo a native and member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the tolls on Interstate 190 through Buffalo force local commuters in the city to pay for the road’s upkeep.

“We have a unique situation here in Buffalo where local residents are made to carry the burden of a commuter tax that is reinvested into other parts of the state,” said Higgins in a press release.

“We hope the Governor and this public authority can recognize the injustice placed on Western New Yorkers and do right by this community. Otherwise I am prepared to find alternate ways to see that federal transportation funding slated for the (Thruway) system is more appropriately invested.”

Erie County Executive Joel Giambra and local businessman Carl Paladino banded together to file a lawsuit against the Thruway Authority in February, alleging that the South Ogden and Breckenridge toll booths on Interstate 190 have stunted economic growth in downtown Buffalo, according to Newsday.

“It’s time to go to the courts and ruffle some feathers,” Paladino told Business First. “We’ve been hearing the booths are coming down for the past 30 years. They are truly a barrier to development in our city.”

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.

According to Buffalo Business First, the two toll booths – which were added in 1956 and are the only booths on the entire toll road that charge a fee to enter a city’s downtown area – generate $11 million in revenue each year, but only cost the Thruway about $4 million to operate.

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