By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- The state Thruway Authority on Friday canceled its meeting to consider a toll increase on trucks.
The authority gave no explanation for the decision. The authority posted on its website just two and a half hours before Friday's meeting in Suffern, Rockland County, that the meeting was postponed until Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at its Albany headquarters.
The authority in May proposed a 45-percent toll increase on truck traffic, and since then the authority has been knocked by lawmakers and businesses.
Critics ripped the Thruway Authority for scheduling Friday's meeting with little notice to the public and just days after Election Day, a possible attempt to lessen the political fallout from a toll increase.
"It's the long-standing arrogance of the Thruway Authority board and their unwillingness to admit they have internal problems," said Brian Sampson, executive director of the Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate. "It's their unwillingness to make the changes necessary so they don't have to come to the tollpayers and ask for more money - time after time after time."
The authority, which oversees the 570-mile thoroughfare, had told credit agencies a toll increase would take effect by October, but the authority has delayed action for months.
Business groups said they were unaware of the Thruway Authority's plans, but were hopeful the delay means that the agency is rethinking its proposal.
"I don't know. The only thing I can think is because of the amount of criticism they are reconsidering," said Kendra Adams, president of the state Motor Truck Association.
The Thruway has troubled finances because toll-paying riders dropped about 10 percent from 2005 to 2011 and costs have increased. In an August report, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the agency hasn't done enough to cut costs despite four toll hikes since 2005.
A 45 percent toll increase would raise about $85 million a year. It pays a similar amount to operate and maintain the state's 524-mile canal system.