Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 17, 2012

Truck toll hike killed

Niagara Gazette — A 45 percent Thruway toll hike for large trucks is off the table.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the decision to scrap the controversial hike at a press conference in Albany Monday morning. He had supported the hike, saying the thruway authority need the extra $90 million in revenues it was expected to generate to maintain its bond rating. That rating has a large affect on interest rates for the authority and the state will likely bond billions of dollars to build a new bridge over the Hudson River replacing the Tappan Zee bridge.

Thomas Madison, the authority's executive director, released a report on new cost-saving strategies on Monday, which include efforts to eliminate poor fiscal practices, make transformative operational changes and create long-term cost savings. The plan will save the agency $25 million in operating costs next year and over $130 million over the next three years, according to the report.

Madison's plan says that the authority will generate these savings by reducing the size of the agency's fleet of vehicles, buying energy in bulk at a discount and exploring options for joint management of the Canal Corporation, the arm of the agency that operates its waterways, amongst other measures.

Some of the authority's costs will be passed along to the state budget directly funded by taxpayers. That includes $60 million a year the Thruway had paid from its tolls since 1954 to pay for state police Troop T, which patrols the statewide highway. The patrols won't change.

Cuomo praised the reversal on the toll proposal made in May by the Thruway Authority headed by Cuomo's appointees. He had publicly distanced himself from the increase proposal, saying it had to be a last resort.

"I thought it would be counterproductive from an economic development perspective," Cuomo said Monday. "I think the increase would send the wrong signal."

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