Another toll hike is likely looming for New York State Thruway commuters. A proposed 2015 budget outlines projected revenue numbers that one public policy expert said don’t exactly add up. Karen Tararache has the details.
The president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, E. J. McMahon said, “Sometime in the next few years the thruway will be raising tolls. In all likelihood that is pretty clear by looking at their finances.”
But what you may not know yet is the proposed 2015 NYS Thruway budget outlines a 44 percent increase in tolls in the next four years.
“By 2018 if they don’t change anything else, they will be $300 million short of what they need to balance their budget,” McMahon said, which broken down in layman’s terms means, “The toll from Albany to Buffalo which is now $12.85 for a passenger car will have to go up to $18.50.”
According to McMahon, though the Thruway has already made substantial employee cuts in the past few years to save on costs, the New NY bridge project would ultimately result in commuters seeing their toll hike from $4.75 currently to $15 in 2018.
“It’s a big system. It has big ongoing capital needs and there has to be a long term plan to get a grip on those needs in addition to getting a grip on the cost of this bridge, which if it comes in on budget will cost just under $4 billion,” McMahon explained.
On page 29 of the proposed budget, an independent engineer projects the thruway will receive $664 million in revenue.
Flip a few pages later and the toll revenue target is listed at $694 million, a $31 million difference that has to be accounted for somehow.
McMahon added, “You might as well start raising the toll in small increments now when the money is clearly needed.”
But even that solution is short term, McMahon said.
He suggests options may lie within repealing the state’s scaffolding law which drives up the insurance costs for highway workers or another option may be to revisit wages for union laborers.
A statement issued from the thruway authority said that they are “evaluating what actions may be necessary to address operations, capital and debt service needs.”
Their next board meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 15 in Albany.