By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- The state Thruway Authority on Monday pulled a much-debated plan to raise highway tolls on trucks and other commercial traffic.
Executive Director Thomas Madison said the authority will make changes to its own budget in order to eliminate the need for the roughly $85 million the toll hike would have raised annually.
"Today, I will present the Board of Directors a new cost-saving plan that will not include a toll hike," Madison said Monday.
Part of the new plan involves shifting some of the authority's costs to the state. In order to avoid the increase, the Thruway Authority will no longer provide $60 million annually to the State Police, which was used as reimbursement for troopers patrolling the superhighway.
The board will vote on the plan Monday afternoon, Madison said.
In May, the state Thruway Authority first proposed a 45 percent toll hike on all vehicles with three or more axles.
The plan was met with immediate and forceful pushback from trucking organizations, business groups and some legislators, who criticized the authority for pursuing the increase as the state tries to improve its oft-criticized business climate.
The Thruway's board then scheduled and subsequently canceled three separate meetings in September and October, when it was expected to vote on the toll plan in some form.
"We're very pleased that the Thruway Authority has decided to stop pursuing a crippling 45 percent toll increase on commercial trucks using the highway," said Kendra Hems, executive director of the NYS Motor Truck Association. "The hike would have devastated the entire state's economy and nullified any attempts to make New York 'open for business'."
Under the now-scuttled proposal, a five-axle truck would have paid $94.45 cash to travel from Albany to Buffalo on Interstate 90, up from the current $65.15.
Madison could not say whether toll increases would be considered in the coming years.
"We need to do everything we can and explore every option before we even consider a toll increase," Madison said.