Rochester, N.Y.— After months of debate and controversy, the New York State Thruway Authority decided to not raise thruway tolls for vehicles with three or more axels.
The proposal to raise the tolls by 45 percent came in spring as the Thruway Authority board needed to find a way to cut costs and to remain solvent with credit agencies.
However, the idea saw much criticism and pushback from the community.
Dave Ciufo, the president of Emerson Express in Rochester, says he is glad the board did not raise the tolls.
“It’s a very good thing,” he said. “Our toll bill is about $18,000 a month so a 45 percent increase would have been about $8,000 a month. That’s a lot of money—about $100,000 a year. Forty-five percent is a huge amount. We fret over a two or three percent rate increase and the [Thruway board] comes out with a 45 percent increase?”
Some of Emerson’s clients include Barilla Pasta and Reynolds Kitchens. He says consumers would have eventually seen the effects of a toll increase.
“It affects the customers because we were going to pass it on,” he said. “Sooner or later, they are going to pass it on. It affects the cost of the product which companies have to pass on when they sell the product to the consumer.”
Janice Studebaker is a truck driver for a company based out of North Carolina, but she used to be an independent trucker. She says the tolls would have crippled those independent contractors.
“If you’re independent, then all those costs are coming out of your pocket,” she said. “When you’re paying for the fuel and the fuel taxes and everything else… Yeah, it’s a big chunk of change out of your bottom line of what you’re taking home.”
Ciufo believes that the voice of business groups and trucking companies were too loud for the Thruway Authority board to ignore.
“I think manufacturers got involved and the business community go involved and were able to convince [the board] that this isn’t a good thing for New York state businesses. We’re trying to keep manufacturing jobs here and transportation is a vital component in manufacturing.”
During a presentation on Monday, Thomas Madison, executive director for the NYS Thruway Authority, said instead of increased tolls, the board will reduce overtime hours, freeze managers’ wages, eliminate positions, allow the state to pay for State Troopers patrolling the thruway, and find ways to merge services with the state.
The plan involves cutting $25 million in operating costs in 2012 and implementing $130 million in fiscal reforms over the next three years.
The Authority’s workforce will be reduced by six percent—or 361 positions by 2013.