Canal Corp. will reinstate tolls

The state Canal Corp. will cut back its hours of operation this season and reinstitute boat tolls as

The state Canal Corp. will cut back its hours of operation this season and reinstitute boat tolls as the Thruway Authority, of which it is part, and the state government try to save money.

Hours of operation will be 9 a.m. through 7 p.m. for most of the season. They have been 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in recent years. The resulting savings this year, said Canal Corp. Executive Director Carmella Mantello, will be $1 million, and there will be 85 fewer seasonal employees. About 100 seasonal employees will be hired this year.

At a Thruway Authority board meeting Wednesday, Mantello said there is plenty of water feeding into the state canal system, and she expects it to open as scheduled on May 1.

Boaters will have to pay tolls for the first time since 2005. State grants in the past two years enabled the Canal Corp. to waive the tolls, but Mantello said no grant has been forthcoming or is expected this year. Tolls will be at the same level as in 2005, she said.

That means a small boat, under 16 feet long, will pay $5 for a two-day pass, $12.50 for a 10-day pass and $25 for a pass for the season. Larger boats will pay more. Mantello said the Canal Corp. will not be rehiring the seasonal toll takers it used to rely on, and she expects the tolls to generate between $200,000 and $250,000 in revenue.

Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, whose district includes Montgomery County, said Mantello does a good job but that the Canal Corp. should be separated from the Thruway Authority and do more to generate development and tourism. Mantello and Thruway Authority Chairman John Buono also have supported separating the Canal Corp. from the Thruway Authority. But the administration of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer opposed it, largely for budgetary reasons, since if highway tolls do not pay for the canals, then presumably the state general fund would have to.

Amedore said he can understand why the hours are being reduced, but has not yet decided whether it is a good idea to reinstitute the tolls and would be talking to Mantello about that.

Mantello said the Canal Corp. is reacting both to the state budget squeeze, the economic slowdown and the Thruway Authority’s own financial difficulties, which are causing it to propose new highway toll increases.

“It’s a tough time for everyone,” she said. “ . . . We’re doing more with less.”

Other economy measures taken at the Canal Corp., Mantello said, include not replacing nonessential staff such as the communications director and not sending staff to boat shows to which they would previously have gone.

Thruway Authority Executive Director Michael Fleischer said a series of public hearings on the proposed highway toll increases and capital plan will start on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Colonie Town Library, 629 Albany-Shaker Road. Other hearings will be held around the state in the next two weeks.

The Thruway Authority board authorized use of $45,000 in state environmental protection fund money as part of a $90,000 project by the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission to create and install “interpretive kiosks” at 13 locations. The locations include Lock 7 in Niskayuna, Amsterdam Riverlink Park, Lock 12 in Fort Hunter, Canajoharie Waterfront Park, Lock 15 in Fort Plain and Howe Caverns.

The other $45,000 was approved by the board in 2006 under the Erie Canal Greenway Grant Program.

Categories: Schenectady County


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