BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Thousands of cars pass through the EZ Pass lane on the NYS Thruway every day, but some drivers are not paying their way and it could cost honest drivers.
A new report says drivers who breeze through EZ Pass lanes without paying are costing New York State millions in lost revenue. State Assemblyman Sean Ryan says the Thruway Authority lost $35 million from drivers who evaded tolls during a four-year period.
"They need to stop this leaking of money," Ryan said. "The Thruway Authority has an anemic collection systems. So they do not actively pursue the toll evaders."
Right now, there are no criminal penalties for evaders - but that could change. Assemblyman Ryan thinks this problem is huge and requires a new law to make it a crime to evade tolls. He's pushing to make it a Class "A" misdemeanor.
Similar legislation passed in the Senate, but didn't make it through the Assembly. Ryan's move comes as the Thruway Authority is considering a 45 percent toll hike for trucks and commercial vehicles.
The State Comptroller Office has said enhanced toll collection should be among the steps taken before implementing a toll increase.
Deputy Comptroller Robert Ward said, "We believe there are some millions of dollars that thruway could collect if it were able to do a better job of handling its existing revenue stream."
What nags at Ryan is the one million drivers, he says, who evaded tolls between 2007 and 2011.
Ryan questioned, "Why aren't they collecting $35 million in tolls? That's a big problem. That's scandalous."
What can be done with that kind of money? We found five planned projects in the thruway's Buffalo division. According to its website, the projects range from bridge rehabilitation and safety upgrades to pavement resurfacing.
"The governor should be looking to make a change at any authority that lets $35 million walk out the door," Ryan stated.
We reached out to the Thruway Authority for a response to Ryan's plan and his criticism. No statement was released.
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