Senator Flanagan Urges Governor To Stall Thruway Toll Increases

 

New York State Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District), the Chairman of the Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, today was joined by two other influential members of the Senate in calling for a halt to the proposed toll increases on the New York State Thruway.

In a letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senator Flanagan, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Thomas W. Libous and Assistant Majority Leader Dale Volker urged the rejection of the Thruway Authority's plan to increase the cost of traveling through New York State.

The three elected officials highlight the fact that the proposed increase in tolls, when combined with the rise in gasoline prices, would decrease the already dwindling use of the roadway. This drop of usage could cause fiscal damage to the fragile upstate economy and has the potential of sending more cars and commercial traffic to the local streets around the thruway.

The letter also emphasized the importance of allowing State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli the time needed to audit the Thruway Authority. The three senators are calling for any hike in tolls to be delayed until a report is completed to allow for a clearer understanding of the necessity for a toll increase.

"The facts need to be known before any toll increase is allowed and a comprehensive audit will accomplish that. The truth is that providing an easy and inexpensive route of travel through our state is essential in both transportation and economic terms and any change that inhibits easy travel or tourism is detrimental for our entire state," stated Senator Flanagan.




December 7, 2007
The Hon. Governor Eliot Spitzer
New York State Executive Chamber
State Capitol
Albany, New York 12224

Dear Governor Spitzer:

As you know, the New York State Thruway Authority recently announced its intention to increase tolls and roll back EZ-Pass discounts for the millions of commuters, commercial truckers, and tourists who utilize the Thruway on a regular basis.

It is our understanding that a member of your staff recently wrote a letter to the Executive Director of the Thruway Authority which asserted that your administration is "unable to endorse" the Thruway Authority’s plan. In our estimation, a "non-endorsement" is simply not good enough. On behalf of the State Senate Majority Conference, we urge you to do the right thing, and to join with us in vigorously and unequivocally rejecting the toll increase plan.

An increase in Thruway tolls would run directly counter to the Senate Majority’s efforts to help strengthen and revitalize the economy of Upstate New York, while also imposing a significant new financial burden on millions of New Yorkers who are already struggling to cope with record-high gas prices.

It is also vital to note that a new toll increase would come on top of the Authority’s previous series of toll increases, the last phase of which is still to be implemented in January of 2008.

What’s more, we also have concerns that a new toll increase, especially when coupled with escalating gas prices, could lead to a further decline in Thruway utilization. This would not only lead to a related decline in Thruway revenues, but would also present additional problems for many Upstate communities that have already been impacted by commercial vehicles, commuters and other motorists that seek alternative routes on local roads.

As you are probably aware, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently agreed to our request to conduct a complete audit on the NYS Thruway Authority’s revenue projections, operations and capital plan to help determine whether the Authority’s most recent proposed toll increase is indeed necessary or advisable. At a minimum, we would urge you to direct the Thruway Authority Board to place its plans on hold until such time as the Comptroller’s audit is completed.

We thank you for your consideration of this important matter, and look forward to your prompt response to our request.

Sincerely,

Senator John J. Flanagan
Chairman, Corporations, Authorities
&Commissions Committee

Senator Thomas W. Libous
Chairman,Transportation Committee

Senator Dale M. Volker