Posted at: 11/08/2012 8:43 PM
By: Associated Press
An upstate business group and an Assembly member are claiming the New York Thruway Authority will try to approve a toll hike for truckers as early as Friday during a special meeting to avoid public attention.
Brian Sampson of Unshackle Upstate said he expects the toll increase could be as high as 45 percent and said the Thruway might approve it at a "hastily called meeting," while the public and media attention are on recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
"The fact that the Thruway Authority's Board of Directors approve any toll increase at a time when businesses across the state, especially in areas that were affected by recent storms, are struggling to survive is simply disgraceful," Sampson said.
Thruway spokesman Dan Weiller said Thursday night that an agenda for the meeting was not available. He declined further comment.
Cuomo appointees and legislative leaders in Albany say a toll increase is necessary to keep the 570-mile highway system safe and in good repair. But truckers and business operators say an increase would raise the cost of goods for all New Yorkers.
Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco said a vote Friday would amount to a "secret government" operation.
"This is yet another sad example of a rogue authority that is putting the needs of faceless bureaucrats first rather than the impact on taxpayers and small businesses that rely on the Thruway for their livelihoods," said Tedisco, who represents Schenectady and Saratoga counties.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said a toll hike is needed to keep the authority financially sound, but he has also asked Thruway officials to find ways to minimize any increases.
In May, the authority proposed a 45 percent toll increase for commercial trucks. It held several public hearings during the summer, and initially planned to have the higher toll in place this fall. The agency considers the increase "modest" and says it would bring New York in line with higher tolls already charged by neighboring states.
Currently, the toll for a three-axle truck traveling from Buffalo to New York City is about $88. Under the proposal, that could increase to $127. In June, a rating agency said "aggressive" toll increases for truckers and eventually all drivers might be needed to keep the authority fiscally sound, even though a multiyear phase-in of toll increases for car drivers ended in 2010.