New York State Thruway Authority holds hearings on toll hikes

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(WIVB)– New York State Thruway officials held the first of three public hearings today, on a plan to raise the tolls.

Sign up for E-ZPass, and your tolls on the thruway will stay the same.

The tolls go up in January, and the thruway is going cashless starting next month. But if there is any opposition, it was hard to tell from today’s sparsely attended virtual hearing.

The plan now is to close the toll barriers on the entire length of the Thruway system next month.. as the entire State Thruway goes cashless, depending on cameras mounted on metal gantries to figure the tolls. Thruway Director Matt Driscoll made it official.

“The implementation to cashless tolling will ease congestion for our motorists, reduce idling time and its impact on our environment, and help with the reduction of roadway incidents.”

The Thruway Authority held the first of three public hearings, virtual hearings, to get a feel of drivers’ sentiments toward a 30-percent toll increase.. starting January first.. except for drivers holding an E-ZPass tag.

“January first, New York E-ZPass customers, outside of those who use the Gov. Mario M Cuomo Bridge will not be impacted by the proposal. Toll rates for those on the rest of the system will remain the same,” Driscoll said.

Two speakers were in favor of the toll hike, a spokesman for the state’s general contractors pointing out this would be the first toll adjustment in 10 years.

“The conditions of the Thruway’s 809 bridges will continue to deteriorate because 492 bridges are more than 60 years old and require replacement,” said contractor Walter Pacholczak.

There was one objection to the Thruway’s plans.. not against the toll hike.. but the two-dollar surcharge on the Tolls By Mail for people who don’t have E-ZPass.

“We should be doing everything we can to get.. that is a very heavy-handed approach and something that could just exacerbate people’s financial situations,” said State Sen. David Carlucci, (D).

The Thruway board was set to take comments from the public for two hours, but after less than 30 minutes of testimony, no other speakers called in, and the virtual hearing went into recess for the remaining 90 minutes.

Another hearing is set for Wednesday, and the third hearing is set for Thursday.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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