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Thruway toll hike vote postponed again

Trucks head northbound on I-87 after a toll

Trucks head northbound on I-87 after a toll booth stop in Yonkers. The MTA announced it plans to increase the toll for tractor trailers by 50 percent. (Nov. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

For the second time in less than a week, the state Thruway Authority postponed a vote that would significantly raise tolls for trucks.

The vote -- which would raise tolls by 45 percent for commercial vehicles -- was first postponed Friday and was postponed again Tuesday.

The Thruway Authority was vague on the reasons why the vote was postponed twice.

"The proposed toll increase for trucks is a complex issue that requires more evaluation before it is presented to the board to consider," Thomas J. Madison, executive director of the Thruway Authority, said in a statement Tuesday. "The Thruway is looking at a number of options and doing extensive research and it will continue to do this due diligence work before another meeting is called and a recommendation is made."

If the proposal passes, it will be the fifth time the state Thruway Authority has raised tolls for commercial vehicles since 2005.

The state was forced to backpedal earlier this year after drivers revolted against a toll increase proposed as part of a plan to build a new Tappan Zee bridge. In that instance, state officials attending a community outreach meeting mentioned the possibility that passenger cars would have to pay $14, on a new bridge. Officials said that tolls for larger, multi-axle trucks, could exceed $100 at peak hours.

For companies, that adds up. For example, an upstate furniture retailer estimated the hike would cost the company an additional $18,000 a month, said Kendra Adams, executive director of the New York State Motor Truck Association.

Larger companies are bracing for cost increases in the six figures, Adams said. Those costs will be passed on to the consumer, Adams said, resulting in higher prices for everything from groceries to appliances.

The Thruway Authority estimated the hike would generate $95 million in new revenue.

"They indicate it's used for capital investments back into the system. However, we think the driving factor is more geared toward the rebuild of the Tappan Zee Bridge," Adams said.

After analyzing the proposed hike this summer, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned against the hike, saying the additional cost "could have damaging effects on consumers and businesses at a time when many are struggling to recover from the recession."

Brian Sampson, executive director of the business advocacy group Unshackle Upstate, called for a forensic audit of the Thruway Authority in a statement Tuesday. Like others who oppose the toll hike, Sampson said he believes the Thruway Authority's finances have been mismanaged.

"With the second cancellation of its board meeting in less than a week, the Thruway Authority board has clearly demonstrated the lack of transparency and accountability that has plagued the Authority for decades," Sampson said in a statement. "How are we to believe that the Thruway Authority is ready to act in the best interest of tollpayers when they can't even conduct a standard board meeting?"


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