A battle over tolls in the Buffalo, NY, area will most likely have
its day in court, following a ruling from the state’s Supreme Court.
In late August, state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Glownia refused to
hear a motion to dismiss the case between the New York State Thruway
Authority and a number of Buffalo-area businesspeople. The motion was brought
forth by the New York Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the
Thruway Authority in the case.
In February, Erie County Executive Joel Giambra and Buffalo businessman
Carl Paladino banded together in a lawsuit against the Thruway Authority,
alleging that two toll booths on Interstate 190 leading into downtown Buffalo have stunted economic growth in the city.
U.S. Representative Brian Higgins, D-NY, also has promised to introduce
a bill in the House that would withhold federal highway funding from the
Thruway if the South Ogden and Breckenridge toll booths on I-190 are not taken
Higgins, a Buffalo native and member of the House Transportation
and Infrastructure Committee, said the tolls force truck traffic and local
commuters in the city to pay for all 641 miles of the Thruway’s upkeep.
“We’re basing our request to the New York State Thruway Authority on an
issue of fairness and equity,” Higgins told Land
Line. “There are 25 highways in upstate New York linking urban and
suburban communities with the Thruway, but there’s only one toll road, that
being the I-190 running through Buffalo.”
According to Thruway figures, approximately $250 million of the
Authority’s $914 million annual budget comes from Federal Highway
Administration funds. Roughly $9.6 million of the 641-mile Thruway’s yearly
revenue – about 1 percent – comes from the Buffalo toll booths. Approximately
$75 million of the Thruway’s budget is used to fund the state’s canal system,
including the Erie Canal.
“It’s one thing if the tolls are put in place to finance construction
or reconstruction,” Higgins said. “Our argument is the Thruway Authority is
receiving a lot of federal highway money to accomplish that. Therefore, the
tolls – the toll tax – represent a double tax on commuters from Buffalo and western New York.”
Originally, tolls on the road were to end in 1996, after the original
bonds that funded the project were paid off. 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 editor