The New York Thruway Authority Board of Directors voted to increase tolls by 5 percent in 2009 and an additional 5 percent in 2010 despite political pressure and the urging of the state comptroller to hold off on the increases.
The vote on Friday, April 25, came just a few months after the board voted to increase tolls by 10 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2008.
The board put off voting on the 2009 and 2010 increases until after the state officials negotiated final details for the 2008-09 fiscal year. The budget agreement, which was announced April 9, capped state spending growth at 1 percent instead of the typical 5 percent seen in recent years.
“Had relief been provided, the Authority could have pursued other options, but the increase is, now, the last resort,” Thruway officials stated in a press release.
A 285-mile east-west trip on the Thruway from Albany to Buffalo currently costs a five-axle truck $52.16 with E-ZPass or $54.90 in cash.
A 5 percent increase in 2009 would make the E-ZPass toll $54.77 and the cash toll $57.65.
The 5 percent in 2010 would push tolls to $57.51 for E-ZPass and to $60.53 for cash.
Thruway officials had public hearings in March, and state political leaders had field hearings earlier in the year in regard to the proposed increases.
In January, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit of the Thruway, stating that the 2009 and 2010 toll increases were “not warranted” until the authority reviewed its own spending.
Thruway officials say the board has implemented numerous cost cuts since 1995, including the elimination of 450 positions and plans to eliminate an additional 50 positions by 2012.
The Thruway is the longest tolled highway in the U.S. at 641 miles, authority officials stated on the Web site. The Thruway took in $554.4 million in 2006.
Truckers are also concerned about Thruway funds subsidizing the Canal Corporation. Thruway officials have said that removing the Canal Corporation from their balance sheet would require an act of the New York State Assembly.
– By David Tanner, staff writer