With time running short, truckers and lawmakers say their opposition to the New York State Thruway Authority’s plan to increase truck tolls 45 percent has for the most part been ignored. The final push is on as the Thruway Authority’s board of directors prepares to meet Tuesday, Sept. 11, for a likely vote on the plan.
Of the three public hearings conducted in August by the Thruway, one consisted of a two-hour session at a downtown Buffalo library and the other two were equally short and inaccessible midday meetings at hotels in Syracuse and Newburgh.
Upset that the Thruway did not conduct a hearing in the state capital of Albany, a group of lawmakers threw their own town hall meeting on Wednesday.
OOIDA Life Member Lou Esposito of Duanesburg, who attended the Thruway hearing in Newburgh, heard about the Albany town hall on the radio at the last minute.
“I dropped my trailer and bobtailed to Albany,” he said. “We have lawmakers on our side on this, and I wanted to be there.”
Esposito told the group that tolls will lead to more trucks diverting to secondary roads and that Thruway users should not be subsidizing the state’s canal system.
The town hall was conducted by Republican Assemblymen Jim Tedisco, Peter Lopez, Steven McLaughlin, George Amedore and Tony Jordan. Tedisco said the group invited Thruway officials to defend their position, but they were no-shows.
“They refused to come in to defend it,” Tedisco told Land Line. “So we had the truckers in, we had small family farmers and the Farm Bureau, we had grocery stores and lumber companies all testify that this is nothing but a consumer tax. It’s just going to be passed on, and it’s going to affect workers and our economic footprint.”
In a late-breaking development, a group of Democrats led by Assemblyman James Brennan has planned a meeting of their own Friday morning at the capitol building in Albany. According to sources, that meeting is “invitation only” and Thruway officials would most likely be in attendance. The meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. in hearing room B.
“It looks like it will be a dog and pony show,” Tedisco said. He is encouraging truckers try to attend even if they’re not on the invitation list.
Time is running short.
The next meeting of the Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Board is 2 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Thruway headquarters in Albany. The meeting is scheduled for webcast at www.thruway.ny.gov, and the Thruway has set up public viewing locations in Cheektowaga, Liverpool and New York City.
A Thruway spokesman recently told Land Line that the agency received more than 1,300 written comments in addition to 108 oral comments during the hearings, and that “not all of them were negative.”
OOIDA members who managed to attend the hearings reported that the “vast majority” of oral comments were in opposition to the toll increase.
Tedisco said his delegation plans to take their comments in opposition to the increases to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They also hope to keep pushing for legislation to take toll increases out of the hands of the Thruway Authority and put it in the hands of the Assembly.
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