Assemblymember Cahill: Thruway Authority Toll Increase Passed Without Local Input
On the heels of an April 25, 2005 announcement by the New York State Thruway Authority that their Board adopted a seven-year capital plan and approved a toll "adjustment" that will force drivers to dig deeper into their pockets for their daily commute or weekend trips, Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) expressed concern that a public hearing on this proposal was not held anywhere in Ulster County.
In an April 5, 2005 letter to Thruway Authority Executive Director Michael Fleischer, Mr. Cahill made a formal request for a public hearing locally so that area residents could have the opportunity to comment on the multi-year capital plan and toll hike. In that correspondence, he stressed that it would take over an hour of travel, whether to the north or south, for one to attend hearings scheduled in Buffalo, Syracuse, Loudonville and Suffern, and that interested parties from Dutchess, Greene and Columbia Counties would benefit, as well, from a meeting held in Ulster due to its central location. Four days before the announcement of the toll hikes, Mr. Cahill received a letter indicating that the answer was a resounding no.
"Regrettably, the Authority stated that they had satisfied statutory requirements regarding public hearings on such matters and selected locations based on proximity to their Division offices," said Assemblymember Cahill. "It is indeed a shame that we in the upper Hudson Valley were not able to benefit from a face-to-face airing of these issues and that the Thruway Authority apparently set the meetings for their own convenience and not that of the general public."
A long-standing concern of local toll payers on the Thruway is that they are subsidizing the free ride given to users of Interstate 84, a road that is maintained by NYS Thruway tolls.
The lack of accountability of all New York State Authorities is a hot topic these days in Albany. The arrogance and insensitivity displayed by the Thruway Authority is further evidence of why reforms are needed. Currently, New York State has hundreds of public authorities funded through a combination of fees and tax dollars that operate with virtually no oversight or accountability to the public.
The Assembly passed a measure Mr. Cahill co-sponsored earlier this year (A.5626) that would address these matters with a comprehensive reform. "These entities are responsible for providing many important services that New Yorkers pay for and rely on every day. They must be held to better standards of accountability to ensure that the public is getting their money’s worth," the Assemblymember stated. "This hidden tax increase of 25% should have been more carefully scrutinized and the local public should have had a real chance to participate. It is time to rein in these runaway authorities," he concluded.