NY Thruway refuses to say if toll increases are subject of meeting

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 11/8/2012

Twenty-four hours before the New York State Thruway’s board of directors meets to discuss finances and other items of business, the agency is not disclosing whether the proposed 45 percent increase in truck tolls is part of the meeting agenda.

“There is no agenda available,” Thruway media spokesman Dan Weiler said Thursday, one day before the board was scheduled to meet on Friday, Nov. 9. The meeting was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The public can view live and archived versions of public meetings at the agency’s website.

It already costs a loaded five-axle truck $88 in tolls to run from Buffalo to New York City on the Thruway. A 45 percent increase, if that is indeed still the figure being targeted, would raise the one-way cost to $127.

Truckers, associations including OOIDA and the New York Motor Truck Association, along with businesses, manufacturers and numerous elected officials have weighed in on the potentially stifling toll increases.

New York State Republican Assemblymen James Tedisco, Steve McLaughlin and Tony Jordan, issued a joint statement on Thursday, blasting the Thruway agency for what they say is a “continued lack of transparency and taxpayer accountability.”

“Clearly, the Thruway Authority doesn’t want the public to know what they are doing with our tax dollars,” a portion of Tedisco’s statement reads. “This is yet another sad example of a rogue authority that is putting the needs of faceless bureaucrats first rather than the impact on taxpayers and small businesses that rely on the Thruway for their livelihoods

Tedisco has proposed shifting the power to raise tolls from the Thruway Authority to the state Assembly.

“Not releasing an agenda for the finance committee for public view is unacceptable given their proposed toll hikes,” said McLaughlin, adding that he believes the authority is rogue and out of touch with the taxpayer.

Adds Jordan: “This is the exact type of secrecy and closed door dealings that continue to plague New York, causing us to be ranked last as a business friendly state. We cannot and will not be open for business until this behavior from our agencies and authorities ends.”

The Thruway Authority held three public hearings in the summer, but the agency took some heat because the hearings were not trucker friendly in terms of parking, locations and time of day. Two meetings were held in the middle of the workday in Syracuse and Newburgh while the third was held at a downtown library in Buffalo.

Tedisco and the other lawmakers held a town hall of their own and invited Thruway officials, but those officials did not attend.

Thruway officials did attend a separate town hall held by Democratic Assemblyman James Brennan.

Tedisco attended and participated in the Brennan town hall but told Land Line at the time that it was a “dog and pony show.”

The Thruway received more than 1,300 written comments and heard from more than 100 speakers at the official hearings. OOIDA members who attended the hearings said the vast majority of comments were in opposition to the increases.

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