Report: New York State Thruway officials want to hike tolls

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New York State Thruway tolls could increase and E-ZPass discounts could evaporate as the state Thruway Authority deals with slower-than-expected traffic growth due to rising fuel costs, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, Sept. 25. Most commercial and passenger drivers could see toll increases of less than 5 percent phased in over several years, according to the AP.

Larger increases are possible in discount zones, including upstate Grand Island, New Rochelle and the Tappan Zee Bridge areas, and for users of annual passes for frequent short trips such as between Amsterdam and Albany, the news agency reported; the Thruway Authority isn’t offering any estimates of what those increases could be. “We’re really looking at a menu,” Thruway Authority head Michael Fleischer told the AP. “If you do more in one place, you can do less in another.”

The most recent Thruway toll increases were in 2005, the first in 17 years for the highway that runs from New York City to Buffalo; that effort caused an uproar led by the trucking industry. Back then, the authority — legally a separate entity from state government — raised tolls by 35 percent for commercial vehicles and by 25 percent for passenger vehicles. That change included a 5 percent discount in the toll if a commercial vehicle used the E-ZPass electronic toll system and a 10 percent discount for passenger car drivers.

Next January, the last piece of that increase takes effect: Tolls paid in cash will be increased 10 percent, raising the current maximum toll of $15.15 for a passenger car from Woodbury to Williamsville to $16.70, the AP reported. The Thruway Authority board could back the proposal to further increase tolls at its November meeting, according to the news agency; the proposal would go to public hearings, then voted on this year or in early 2008.