The New York State Thruway Authority’s plan to increase tolls has been met with criticism from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The proposal calls for higher toll rates to take effect January 1, 2024, followed by another increase three years later for the highway system and barriers, and the raising of toll rates over four years beginning in 2024 for the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The toll hikes are expected to generate $1.9 billion in toll revenue by 2031.
DiNapoli released a report outlining his concerns with the proposal and called on the Thruway Authority to improve its operations and maximize non-toll revenues before raising tolls. He cited issues with the cashless tolling system, declining traffic and toll revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of building the Cuomo Bridge, the Thruway Authority’s outstanding debt, and the shifting financial obligations between the state and the Thruway Authority.
DiNapoli urged the Thruway Authority to address its cashless tolling problems, conduct a comprehensive assessment of operating expenses to identify unnecessary costs, seek alternative revenue streams, utilize federal funding, and be transparent about its assets and capital needs before increasing tolls. He said, “Raising tolls should be the last option, and the Thruway has more work to do.”
The Thruway Authority responded to DiNapoli’s report by saying it has made numerous improvements to the billing system, including enhancements to the Tolls by Mail website and newly designed toll bills and envelopes. The Thruway Authority said it is not supported by any federal, state or local taxpayer funding and that toll revenue accounts for 90% of its total revenue.
The Thruway Authority also pointed out that the average age of its 815 bridges is 55 years old and that more than 85 of them need to be replaced within the next decade at a cost of roughly $800 million. The Thruway Authority argues that tolls need to be increased to fund the replacement of these bridges and hundreds more in the future.
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