New York, Maine Consider Hefty Toll Hikes

New York legislators are fuming over the state thruway authority’s consideration of a 45 percent increase in commercial tolls, while the Maine Turnpike Authority has scheduled meetings this month concerning a relatively smaller toll hike proposal for truckers.
New York Assemblyman Frank Skartados blasted the state thruway authority’s preliminary approval May 30 to raise tolls 45 percent on trucks with three or more axles.
The assemblyman, a Democrat, said the hike would hurt truckers. Howard Milstein, authority board chairman, had described the increase as “modest.” It also would affect consumers and businesses that ultimately would pay higher prices to compensate for greater transportation costs.
Republican Sen. James Seward said this proposal also would increase traffic for small towns along the thruway because more truckers would seek alternatives to the higher tolls. The authority board is required to conduct an environmental review and hold at least three public hearings before a rate change, Seward added.
If approved, the round-trip cash toll for a five-axle truck crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge would increase from $32.75 to $47.49. The authority last raised rates 25 percent in 2010 for all drivers.
Also at the authority board meeting, Milstein summarized an independent review he requested after he began oversight of the state’s 570-mile thruway and 525-mile canal system.
On an annual basis, commercial traffic decreased 4.2 percent while total traffic dropped 1.8 percent between 2005 and 2011. Still, the authority outspent revenue “to an alarming degree” and bridged the gap with what the reviewers called “potentially risky” financial practices.