Bus companies join ATA lawsuit against NY Thruway's use of tolls for canals

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 2/3/2017

One week after the New York State Thruway argued against a ruling in favor of the American Trucking Associations’ claim that truck tolls used for the canal system were unconstitutional, another wrench has been thrown into the mix. On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the American Bus Association, the largest national trade association for the bus and motorcoach industry, filed a similar class action lawsuit against the Thruway.

Citing ATA’s victory last week, ABA claimed bus companies were similarly affected:

“The Thruway Authority’s enactment, implementation, and enforcement of its artificially inflated toll rates have deprived, and will continue to deprive, Plaintiffs of rights secured by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because they are not based on a fair approximation of interstate bus companies’ use of the Thruway and because they are excessive in relation to the benefits conferred on interstate bus companies for paying those tolls.”

On Aug. 10, 2016, Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York sided with the ATA. In her decision, McMahon acknowledged the canal “has great economic, historic and recreational value for the State of New York.” However, she also noted the canals had “no transportation or other associated value to Plaintiffs.” Based on that analysis, the Thruway violated the Dormant Commerce Clause with its commercial toll rates.

On Jan. 26, the Thruway argued that it was authorized to use truck tolls to pay for canals by Congress. Based on that argument, the Thruway is asking the court to vacate the order issued last August. More specifically, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, or ISTEA, explicitly states how the Thruway can use toll revenue.

ATA and ABA are seeking monetary damages in the amount of tolls paid since Nov. 14, 2010, and Feb. 1, 2014, respectively. In addition to monetary damages, they are also seeking equitable relief in the form of a declaratory judgment and a permanent order that would prevent the collection of similar tolls in the future.

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