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Thruway toll hike criticized

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Thruway toll hike criticized
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There are mounting protests over a new toll hike plan from the New York State Thruway Authority. The increases don't affect passenger cars, but it would hit hard at the trucks that carry goods across the state. YNN's Bill Carey says taxpayer groups and business leaders are banding together to fight the hike.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Thruway Authority has downplayed the impact of what amounts to a 45 percent hike in the charges for vehicles with three or more axles. The argument is that average motorists will not be affected. The state's business community disagrees.

“Every increase that we see in the toll will ultimately come down to us at the bottom end of the food chain, since most of what we use is delivered to us by trucks,” said Brian Sampson of Unshackle Upstate.

Currently, a truck traveling from New York City to Buffalo on the State Thruway pays a toll of $88. Under the new plan, that toll would go to $127.

Those involved in economic development claim it’s a return to tactics used before the state began an effort to improve its business climate.

“How has that worked for us over the past 50 years? How has that accumulation of this attitude that, when we need money, we'll just add a little more to something. And it's just a little more. But it's not just a little more,” said Garry Douglas of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

The business leaders say the tolls will equal higher prices for everything that moves by truck. Or, in some cases, longer travel times for the rest of us as some truckers avoid using the Thruway.

“Obviously they can't stop driving. They'll just take other routes, which means the roadways we use daily, and in some cases, live and work along, will be clogged with trucks,” said Sandy Parker of the Rochester Business Alliance.

The business and taxpayers group are demanding that before moving to raise its rates, the Thruway Authority needs to put its own financial house in order.

Sampson said, “Sixty-seven percent of their employees pay zero percent on health insurance. Their retirees don't pay. They have more than 125 employees making more than $100,000 a year. They have more employees than the Department of Transportation, yet the Department of Transportation administers 15 times more miles.”

“Placing a 45 percent toll increase on commercial vehicles is nothing less than a bailout for the Thruway. And it's a bailout that everyone will pay for,” said Kendra Adams of the New York State Motor Truck Association.

Without some action to halt the move, the higher tolls will take effect at the end of September.

The Thruway Authority has begun hearings on the proposal. The public meetings began Thursday in Buffalo. A session is planned Friday in East Syracuse at 11 a.m. at the Double Tree Hotel. The final meeting is due Saturday in Newburgh.

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