Truck toll hike opposition cites harm to state recovery

Thursday, September 6, 2012
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A Price Chopper tractor-trailer passes through Exit 25A of the New York State Thruway in Rotterdam on Wednesday morning.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
A Price Chopper tractor-trailer passes through Exit 25A of the New York State Thruway in Rotterdam on Wednesday morning.

— Nearly 60 percent of the supplies used at Dimension Fabricators come via the state Thruway.

Company CEO Scott Stevens said his trucks hauling steel into the Glenville plant and rebar out to customers typically spend about $62,000 in tolls along the 570-mile system over the course of a year. And that cost could increase by roughly $28,000 if a proposed 45 percent toll increase for trucks is implemented by the Thruway Authority

“If it doesn’t come in a rail car, it has to come on the Thruway for a significant part of the ride,” he said.

The hike probably wouldn’t imperil the growing company of 60-plus workers, but it certainly wouldn’t make doing business any easier. Stevens said the proposed toll hike would be yet another dig into his bottom line as he already contends with rising costs.

“It’s sort of like death from a thousand cuts,” he said.

This sentiment was shared by David Golub, senior vice president of administration for the Schenectady-based Golub Corp. He said the proposed hike will cost about $250,000 extra per year for Price Chopper’s fleet of trucks alone and send a ripple of cost increases that will ultimately reach consumers.

For instance, about 71 percent of the shipping companies hauling products into the grocer’s five distribution facilities in Rotterdam and Guilderland use the Thruway. He said the combined cost of the proposed increase will translate into a higher cost for goods at a time when the economy is already weak.

“It will serve as a tax on businesses and consumers,” he said. “It’s going to hit everybody.”

Golub and Stevens were among about two dozen business owners and trade association members railing against the proposed hike during a public hearing Wednesday, hosted by five Republican state assemblymen. Assemblymen James Tedisco and Steve McLaughlin arranged the forum at the Alfred E. Smith Building after the Thruway Authority solicited comments about the hike in Newburgh, Syracuse and Buffalo, but failed to host a public hearing in the Albany area.

Tedisco, R-Glenville, blasted the authority for proposing another toll hike after imposing four since 2005. He questioned why the authority would boost tolls at a time when the state is struggling to rebound economically.

“Everyone knows that when the cost of goods and services goes up, businesses either cut back their workforce reduce their economic footing or pass the costs on to the consumer,” he said. “In many cases, it’s all three.”

The toll hike was proposed for trucks with three axles or larger and was proposed in May as a way to put the authority on sound financial footing.

The authority could approve the increase later this month, meaning the new toll could take effect starting in October. Executive Director Thomas Madison said the increase is aimed at ensuring the authority has the capital available to keep the highway safe, since it receives no tax money for repairs.

“The proposed toll increase is targeted to address the inequality that exists between cars and large commercial trucks, which put thousands of times more wear and tear on the road but are charged only five times as much as passenger vehicles,” he said in a statement released Wednesday.

But business leaders and legislators attending the hearing weren’t convinced. Many questioned why such an increase is being considered at a time when the state is desperately trying to foster a more positive climate for business.

“This is like one step forward and two steps back,” said McLaughlin, R-Melrose. “This really sets us back on the progress of economic development.”

Some suggested the authority finally shed the Canal Corporation, which also operates the Erie Canal. Others called for the authority itself to be dissolved so that the Thruway could come under the control of the state Department of Transportation, which is funded through the state’s general fund.

“Heck, Massachusetts did it,” said Stevens, referring to the Bay State’s creation of an over-arching agency to oversee the Massachusetts Turnpike in 2009.

Julie Suarez, a spokeswoman for the New York Farm Bureau, said the hike will place even more of a burden on the state’s agricultural businesses. She said farmers struggling with increased fuel costs and poor weather conditions — ranging from floods to draughts — are ill-prepared to cope with the added cost.

“Farmers now are already in a very difficult economic position,” she said.

Minden Supervisor Tom Quackenbush said the hike could also have the effect of driving big rigs onto non-toll road that aren’t designed to hold such a weight capacity. He characterized the hike as a way to pass on the Thruway Authority’s deficit onto businesses and consumers.

“It’s another tax,” he said. “There’s no way around that.”

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September 6, 2012
2:56 p.m.
newyorker65 says...

This is indeed *highway robbery*... pardon the pun. I once heard an official of the NYS Thruway Authority proclaim that they *had* to raise tolls because nobody was using the Thruway. Well, duh, if you raise the tolls, then certainly no-one will use the Thruway, and that last guy on the road will have to pay the million dollar toll at the end of the line! I hope the truck drivers and their companies can fight this effectively... the added cost to them will mean added cost to the goods they supply to us. Not good for anyone, well, maybe for the Thruway Authority...

September 6, 2012
3:20 p.m.
rsmall803 says...

the thruway is the biggest abuser of monies wasted on no show high salaried friends of all ny governors.

September 6, 2012
7:05 p.m.
robbump says...

So there were 4 toll hikes since 2005- how many gasoline hikes happened in that time?

"the inequality that exists between cars and large commercial trucks, which put thousands of times more wear and tear on the road but are charged only five times as much as passenger vehicles,"

How could anyone, especially conservatives, not be able to understand this concept? Let's say you operate a GROCERY STORE, and someone purchases 1000 cans of beans while I purchase only 1. Are you going to charge that customer only $5? I doubt it. Let's say you run a fleet of trucks, and one of your customers needs 1000 times the load moved from Schenectady to Albany, again, are you going to up the fee only by a factor of 5?

Looking as Golub's additional annual operating costs of $250,000 if this goes through: and what percentage of his total costs does this represent? I can see that many will be standing by, ready to increase the cost to customer 5 to 15% when this toll increase was only a 1% hit to their bottom line.

Tolls are one of the fairest charges we get charged by our government - only those utilizing the services directly pay for it. amd as far as those roads not designed for the traffic goes: post and enforce weight limits.

September 6, 2012
9:16 p.m.
Fritzdawg says...

It's going to raise the price of EVERYTHING.
Absolutely everything in, and around your house, including your car, was on a truck at some point.

"only those utilizing the services directly pay for it."

Well then let those that use the canal pay for it, and not us.
It shouldn't be up to us to subsidize pleasure boaters, and seasonal businesses.

Put the canal under the auspices of the parks dept where it belongs, and we won't even need a toll hike.

September 6, 2012
10:55 p.m.
myshortpencil says...

Those that cause the damage should pay the cost. No more freeloading.

Poor Price Chopper. What does $250,000 translate to in increased costs? Well less than a penny per item. Let's see the data.

September 7, 2012
2:23 p.m.
robbump says...

Fritzdawg: yes, I agree that the Canal system should NOT be part of the Thruway system. Whether or not removing it would prevent a toll increase I do not know, and concede that you may be correct. Maybe the tolls for automobiles might even drop. But a damage factor of 1000 cannot be ignored.

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