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Thruway toll hike hearing draws a large, diverse crowd

A proposal to raise New York State Thruway tolls 45 percent for large trucks brought out dozens of people to a hearing in Syracuse Friday.

Some of those testifying suggested there will be political reprisals if the authority goes ahead with the increases, which would bring rates for large trucks in line with what passenger cars pay.

The Thruway Authority suggested raising rates for two main reasons:

  • The Thruway Authority says it wants to keep tolls as low as possible, but after cutting $400 million out of operational costs and capital plans over the next three years, the authority budget is still in the red.

  • Additionally, most of the wear and tear on the almost 60-year-old roads comes from big trucks that only pay five times the toll rate of passenger cars.

At Friday's public hearing, everyone from farmers to grocery store owners, and especially truckers, said it will put some companies out of business, force layoffs, and raise prices for a myriad of items.
Carl Byrne, CEO of Byrne Dairy, says the hike will cost him an extra $200,000 a year. He says there will be political backlash if this goes through.

"It's gonna rally some of the business community to stick together and put their money behind making sure the taxes are more fair and spread appropriately and not all at once," Byrne said. "A 45 percent increase in thruway taxes is not something we can afford to pay."

There were a handful of supporters of the hike. Most of them were boosters of the New York State Canal System, which gets most of its funding from the thruway authority.

The authority will continue to take comments on the issue for the next week, either by mail or email.  Hearings were also held in Buffalo and Newburgh.

More information on the proposal can be found at www.thruway.ny.gov.