Thruway drops toll hike

Public pressure leads authority to turn to cuts instead of trucks

— Facing mounting criticism, the Thruway Authority has put the brakes on a proposed 45 percent toll hike for commercial trucks, and will instead pursue a round of cuts.

Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison on Monday, Dec. 17, announced during a news conference with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that any toll increases have been removed from the proposed 2013 budget. Madison announced the move and cost saving measures hours before the authority met to adopt its budget and approve a $3.14 billion bid to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge. The proposed 45 percent toll hike on trucks was expected to raise around $90 million in revenue.

Cuomo, who earlier this month urged the authority to avoid any toll hike, applauded the switch and said it was “very exciting” to avert an increase. He said a toll increase was counterproductive for economic development statewide, especially for Upstate New York’s struggling economy.

“I thought it would send the wrong signal, especially at this time when we are working so hard to send a different signal,” Cuomo said. “These were very aggressive cost saving measures, because there was a lot of money that we were trying to make up.”

The news was met with elation from consumer advocacy groups that had panned the toll hike. Brian Sampson, executive director of the group Unshackle Upstate, said the toll hike would have resulted in “tremendous damage” to the Upstate economy.

“The announcement today is a clear indication that public advocacy is alive and well in New York,” Sampson said in statement.

Mark Eagan, president and CEO of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, echoed those thoughts.

“This toll hike would have been like putting up detour signs around New York,” Eagan said in a statement. “It goes against the progress we have achieved in recent years in building a new New York, one that is open for business.”

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