Kennedy: Thruway Authority Answers Questions About November Storm Response at Transportation Budget Hearing

Acting NYSTA Executive Director Also Discusses Possibility of Future Toll Hikes

BUFFALO, N.Y. – NYS Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Robert Megna today told Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) that a team at the Authority is evaluating its response during Buffalo’s November Storm, and intends to put together a set of recommendations based on those findings.

During a Joint Budget Hearing on Transportation in Albany, Kennedy asked Megna what the NYSTA learned from the storm, and what policies were being examined and identified as needing improvement.

“What we are trying to do is work with local officials, because it wasn’t just an issue for us, it was an issue for locals as well, so we’re trying to work with the locals to know what they saw that we did that maybe not as efficiently or effectively as we could, or how they could have helped us more, or how we could have helped them a little bit more,” Megna said during the hearing.

Megna said the evaluation by the Authority is an ongoing process, but that when those recommendations were made in the future, he would give them to Kennedy. He said while he didn’t have a specific timeline on when they would be released, he expected they would be made “relatively short-term.”

“I think NYSTA Acting Executive Director Robert Megna is overseeing an essential step that needs to be taken: looking at how the Authority was successful in responding to Buffalo’s storm, and recognizing what decisions could have been made differently,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “I look forward to seeing the recommendations made, and to working with the Authority to make sure those changes are implemented.”

Kennedy also asked Megna about the possibility of toll hikes on the Thruway. While it has been proposed to use settlement funds to help close the Thruway deficit and prevent hikes for at least one year, Kennedy asked what assurance residents have that investments made in 2015-16 will stave off hikes in the future. Megna said his goal is to make sure that the Authority is investing capital and borrowing money wisely.  

“As we work through that process, I think we’ll see what our needs are in the future. But I would hesitate to give you a plan for tolls for future years beyond 2015 because I couldn’t give you an educated answer to that,” Megna said during the hearing. “I would say I think we could manage the system, given the $1.3 billion, pretty efficiently and effectively, without significant toll increases over a period of time on the rest of the Thruway. That doesn’t mean no toll increases, but I think it means we can minimize toll increases over the future. But I’d like to get a look at the capital budget and the kind of projects we have in place before I give you a definitive answer.”

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the towns of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.