By Dan Guzewich Staff writer
Two local state representatives want the Thruway to put the brakes on a plan to raise tolls 45 percent for big trucks with three or more axles.
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo and Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi are both blasting the Thruway Authority’s preliminary approval to boost tolls for some commercial vehicles.
"If the authority understood the realities of the economy of Upstate New York, it would be rolling back tolls instead of increasing them," said Griffo, R-47, Rome. "When policy is so disconnected from the needs of the business community and is counterproductive for the economy of not only my district but dozens more, it is a sign that there is no vision behind decisions, simply a need to feed a revenue-grabbing authority that has shown it needs to be reigned in and reformed."
The near doubling of the levy would be added to the 25 percent hike applied in 2010.
"Any toll increase in this difficult economy would place a huge burden on small businesses already struggling to make ends meet," said Brindisi, D-116, Utica. "Small businesses will be required to cut back on resources and staff, or increase the cost of goods to make up for this increase."
Oneida County is home to two large distribution centers. They are the Family Dollar facility in Rome and the Wal-Mart one in Marcy. The Thruway is a major highway for trucks bringing goods to the centers and those making deliveries to stores from the warehouses.
"As a senator whose district includes a major transportation and distribution center, I am disappointed that the Thruway Authority hasn’t taken into consideration what this business sector represents economically and the negative impact by this 45 percent increase on the industry," said Griffo. "This action undercuts the message of economic growth we have been trying to achieve. I call upon the authority to publicly drop this idea now, before it gets any more discussion and hinders the state’s image of trying to reform and become business friendly."
Additionally, the dairy industry, the largest sector of Oneida County’s agricultural economy, relies on truck transportation to pick up fresh milk at the farm and deliver it to processors — trips that may utilize on the Thruway. Increased transportation costs would ultimately be paid by farmers.
Brindisi has safety concerns too.
"Aside from increasing the cost of doing business, this toll increase will force truckers to get off the Thruway, putting them onto local roads and endangering the safety of our communities," he said. "I urge the Thruway Authority to rethink this decision that will have a harmful effect on the safety and economic well-being of our community."
Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison says the money is needed for repairs. Large commercial trucks cause 10 times the damage to roads than passenger vehicles, according to the official.
The Thruway Authority plans to hold public hearings to get feedback on the proposed increase.