Proposed New York toll hike concerns carriers

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Proposed toll increases on the New York State Thruway may so seriously affect some truckers’ bottom lines that they will be forced out of the business, the New York State Motor Truck Association believes.

“Fuel and insurance increases have placed many carriers in jeopardy,” says a Truck Association press release. “These toll increases may seal the fate of some.”

The Thruway Authority has proposed a 25 percent toll increase for passenger cars and a 35 percent toll increase for trucks. The Thruway Authority board will vote on the plan April 25.

The plan would simplify the rate structures from 43 toll classifications to nine, but the Truck Association says this reorganization will boost truck tolls well beyond the announced 35 percent increase, according to the association’s calculations.

For the trucks going through the Woodbury Toll Barrier to Exit 24 near Albany, a five-axle combination toll is $14.10. The hike would increase the toll by 64 percent, to $23.10, if paid with cash; and by 56 percent, to $21.99, if paid through EZPass.

A six-axle combination now pays $14.10. This would increase to $28.70 if paid with cash, up 104 percent; and to $27.27 if paid through EZPass, up 93 percent.

A six-axle combination rig hauling two trailers that is less than 28 feet long now pays, through double charges, $17.20. The plan would increase that cash amount by 67 percent, to $28.70; and that EZPass amount by 59 percent, to $27.27.

Two-axle passenger vehicle toll increases would be much less. Four-wheelers now pay $3.65. The plan would increase that to $4.60 cash or $4.14 EZPass – increases of 26 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Three- and four-axle straight trucks now pay $9.20 and $12.70, respectively. Those rates would change to $15.55 cash and $14.77 EZPass for three axles; $17.15 cash and $16.29 EZPass for four axles. Expressed as percentages, the cash increases are 69 percent for three axles and 35 percent for four axles; the EZPass increases are 61 percent for three axles and 28 percent for four axles.

Toll authorities traditionally argue that big trucks should pay higher tolls than automobiles because they do more damage to roadways.

Tolls are an increasingly popular fund-raising tool for new highway construction, and the U.S. House refused earlier this year to rule out the imposition of tolls on older interstates. Moreover, a federal judge recently ruled, in a case involving a 2002 toll increase on Delaware River bridges, that federal law doesn’t give private parties such as truckers the right to sue toll agencies.

The New York toll increases will force truckers onto smaller, more congested, less safe highways and force New England-bound trucks through Pennsylvania instead of the full west-to-east length of New York, the Truck Association says.

The Truck Association points out that trucks avoided the Ohio Turnpike after a toll increase several years ago, forcing the Turnpike Commission to lower commercial rates and increase discounts in 2004.

The Thruway Authority offers a toll and distance calculator at its website, http://www.thruway.state.ny.us/tolls2005/calc/index.html.