ALBANY – A day after declining to rule out a toll increase on passenger vehicles, Thruway officials Thursday night said that option is off the table.
The Buffalo News reported earlier Thursday that the agency’s director, Thomas Madison, declined to say Wednesday if officials were examining a toll hike on all vehicles, including cars, as a way to lower a proposed 45 percent toll increase on trucks and certain-sized campers being hauled by cars or trucks.
But Thursday evening, after a couple of Albany-area Assembly Republicans called Thruway officials everything from the Grinch to “arrogant” in response to the story, the agency ended the uncertainty and said no toll hike on passenger cars is under review.
In May the Thruway Authority proposed a 45 percent increase on three-axle and larger vehicles as a way to raise $90 million a year in new revenues.
Business groups say the increase would be passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices on virtually every product transported along the Thruway.
Two recent Thruway Authority board meetings to approve the plan were scuttled at the last minute, and now Thruway officials say they are looking at “all options” to raise revenues or cut expenses after they had already assured investors in a $1 billion bond sale that the toll hike was coming to help the agency balance its books.
Thruway officials still won’t say, though, if a Dec. 17 board meeting will take up the toll issue, but the board will decide at that session on a bid for a new Tappan Zee Bridge to be built over the Hudson River.
Wednesday, Madison was asked by a reporter if the agency was looking at smoothing out the planned 45 percent toll hike, which Thruway Chairman Howard Milstein had dubbed “modest,” by applying any toll increase to all classes of vehicles that use the highway system, including cars.
“All options covers a lot of ground … We’re covering a lot of ground in our analysis,” Madison responded.
Thursday evening, Thruway officials said there is no plan afoot to hike tolls on passenger vehicles.