SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The outgoing executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority is defending the agency’s plan to increase tolls nearly a year from now.
“This roadway is 70 years old and it needs attention,” said Driscoll.
He says most of the system’s 815 bridges need repair or replacement, 75% of them being older than 60 years old.
“The underlaying base condition is eroding,” said Driscoll, “so when you’re doing overlay, paving over the top of it, it no longer holds. It doesn’t make sense from an investment standpoint to continue in this model.”
For EZ-Pass users, the plan calls for a 5% increase in tolls in January of 2024. Then another 5% in 2027.
The result is an increase from $0.045 to $0.049 per mile by 2027.
A trip from Verona to Syracuse will go from $1.06 in 2023 to $1.12 in 2024 to $1.18 in 2027, according to Thruway Authority calculations.
A bigger rate increase is proposed for drivers without EZ-Pass, who are billed based on license plate readers.
This week, State Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter harshly criticized the 75% increase.
She wrote: “Not only is it insulting to raise rates by 75% on New Yorker’s who aren’t able to own a credit card, it is also blatant discrimination. Studies have shown that the majority of individuals who do not/cannot own a credit card are African American, younger, and/or lower income.”
“I reject the notion there’s discriminatory action here,” responds Driscoll. “That’s silly. We’re modeling what other states do as well.”
Driscoll cites what highway systems in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania charge drivers relying on pay-by-mail technology instead of services like EZ-Pass.
Because EZ-Pass is automatic and tied to credit cards, it requires no work for a billing department. Because administration is less expensive, it’s common to incentive an auto-pay system.
Driscoll says at least three public hearings will be held next year and a website will allow for comment submissions about the proposed pricing plan.
Watch Thruway Authority Executive Director Matt Driscoll’s full conversation on Newsmakers.
Newsmakers airs at 12:30pm Friday, 5:30am Saturday and 5:30pm Sunday on NewsChannel 9.