ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York State Thruway Authority on Wednesday decided to seek public input on what a Cuomo administration appointee called a "modest toll increase" of 45 percent for big trucks, and more toll increases may be on the way for all drivers.
"That's a huge chunk," said Kendra L. Adams, executive director of the New York State Motor Truck Association. "It's outrageous."
Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., R-Merrick, citing lingering economic woes, called for the authority to “reconsider their decision based on the economic impact it will have on New York’s businesses and familes.”
He said the 45 percent increase will ultimately be passed on to consumers.
In another surprise to trucking operators, the authority also said the toll increase for trucks with three or more axles won't be used to pay for the upcoming replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge, which carries traffic over the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester counties.
In a letter to board members, the Thruway Executive Director Thomas Madison, chosen by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the Tappan Zee Bridge project will "will be addressed with separate financing."
Madison provided no details. Hours before the Thruway board's decision to advance the proposal to public hearings, Cuomo told reporters he wasn't aware of any definite increase. He wouldn't comment after the authority's action.
The toll for a three-axle truck traveling from Buffalo to New York City is about $88. That could increase to $127 under the proposal the board approved Wednesday. Tolls were last raised on the 641-mile highway system in 2010 for all drivers, increasing the typical toll more than 25 percent.
"When you are looking at a 45-percent increase, right, wrong or indifferent it's going to encourage trucks to use roads other than the Thruway," Adams said.
"Small companies with only 1 to 2 percent profit margin, we're jeopardizing their ability to operate," she said. "The trickle down of that is that we ultimately start to increase the cost of goods in New York state again."
Madison told board members Wednesday that the major increase in tolls will help repair damage caused by the big trucks, but will still be at or below the level of tolls in neighboring states. Further study and public hearings are next, before the board can an enact the higher fees.
Madison claimed previous governors spent too much and repaired too little infractructure, leaving a fiscal mess for the Cuomo administration that forces toll increases.
Adams said past toll increases for trucks were also supposed to pay for damage by commercial trucks, but companies are particularly irked when tolls are used for other purposes, such as developing a canal system for recreational boating to which some past toll increases contributed.
The Thruway was built beginning in the 1950s and tolls were suppposed to have paid off the superhighway in 1996. Tolls now pay for maintenance, a cost that would otherwise have to be paid through the state budget.
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