Truckers slam proposed 45% Thruway toll hike
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Truckers from around the region lined up at a state hearing Saturday to protest a proposed 45 percent state New York Thruway toll hike on big trucks.
Statistics and numbers flew around the room as both truckers and state officials cited data during the two-and-a-half hour hearing at the Hilton Garden Inn in Newburgh. It was the state's third and final public hearing on the issue, which truckers contend would be ruinous for some businesses and would push more heavy vehicle traffic onto local roads.
"Forty-five percent -- are you serious?" asked Robert Bohm, a wholesale gravel distributor from Long Island who was one of 52 people attending the hearing. "Who would buy anything from anybody if they suddenly said it would cost 45 percent more?"
Over and over, carriers and business owners said that the ripple effect of a higher toll along the 570-mile highway would be immediate.
"I can assure you, that much of this will be passed along to consumers," warned Thomas Connery, executive vice president for New England Motor Freight of Elizabeth, N.J. He said his company already pays $1.2 million in annual tolls to the state Thruway Authority to cover 5 million miles.
While Connery said he is not opposed to an increase, an "unreasonable" 45 percent hike "will force more trucks to local, nontolled roads."
The Authority stressed that the hike would only impact the biggest trucks because trucks with three or more axles cause 10,000 times more wear and tear on roadways than passenger vehicles, based on a study. Some truckers dispute that number. The Authority also stressed that the toll hike is needed to address budget issues which "were not properly managed under previous administrations."
U.S. Xpress northeast area vice president Michael Campo, who was at the hearing, said the trucking industry has already lost 25 percent of its overall capacity since the 2008 recession. Like several speakers, he said it was "troubling" to know that the Authority would be using a portion of the increased revenues to help fund the canal system instead of to solely maintain the superhighway.
The most expensive state to operate a truck in the Northeast is New York, said Kendra Adams, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association, which has its offices in Albany. One example: Highway taxes and fees cost $4,058 per truck in New Jersey, $7,811 in Pennsylvania and $12,047 in New York, according to the association. Given the numbers, a 45 percent hike is "completely irresponsible," said Adams, who was also at the hearing. "I sincerely hope there are some Plan Bs being looked at," she said.
State officials said the state held the line on toll increases, without a single hike from 1988 to 2005 and just three since. The toll for a three-axle truck traveling from Buffalo to New York City is now about $88. That could increase to $127.
The open comment period on the hike, which was proposed in June, ends on Aug. 24. It will be followed by a recommendation from Authority executive director Tom Madison, who will make a recommendation to the Thruway board, which will put the issue to a vote. No date has been set.