This month, my Assembly Minority Conference held a series of public hearings across the state to gather input from the people on the impact of the Thruway’s proposed toll hikes. I was fortunate enough to chair one of these hearings in our region last week where a number of small-business owners, trucking companies and citizens in and around the Finger Lakes voiced concerns over the Thruway’s proposal to increase tolls by 20% over the next two years.
Local trucking companies expressed their objection to a toll increase, stating that higher fuel prices have already forced many to radically streamline operations. There was a general consensus that increasing tolls would likely shift truck traffic to local roads not built to handle constant heavy loads and higher volumes. This action will have a direct and negative impact on the quality of life in the cities, towns and villages along these state routes.
Additionally, the average New York family has seen either low or nonexistent wage increases in recent years, while the cost of living has sharply increased - making every penny that more valuable and a toll hike unwelcome. Raising tolls may just cause enough New Yorkers to change driving habits and cause an opposite effect to what the Thruway Authority is looking for.
Instead of only looking at the bottom line of their revenue, the Thruway Authority’s overall operations need to be examined. That is why I sent a letter last month to the state Comptroller to request an extensive audit of the New York State Thruway Authority. Recently, the comptroller said his office will perform the audit and I hope that his review, in conjunction with the public testimony my conference has collected, will help the Thruway Authority seek alternatives to a toll hike.
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