ALBANY — Tolls have remained mostly steady during a local family’s 17 years in the trucking industry.
Come Monday, the New York State Thruway Authority’s Board of Directors is expected to discuss a toll increase of 5% for E-ZPass users and 75% for others by 2024. The broad-scale increase — which would be the highest in 14 years — is intended to fund infrastructure investments and reduce outstanding debt.
The toll cost “affects everything we do here,” said Jacquelyn Szczepanik, president of Sandell Transport in the Guilderland hamlet of Fort Hunter. “We also do warehousing here. It affects our customers because the more money it costs us to operate, it ends up coming to the end user, which is the consumer.”
For a seven-foot or more, five-axle truck traveling from the Interstate 90 gantry in Canaan near the Massachusetts border to the Canajoharie interchange, this would mean an increase of $21.81 to $22.90 for E-ZPass users, $25.11 to $43.94 for out-of-state non-users and $28.36 to $49.63 for in-state non-users.
Cason Transport in Duanesburg has all 18 drivers on E-ZPass. For one of the 30-year-old company’s round trips from Albany to Harriman on Interstate 87, it costs $23.32 for five-axle trucks and $28.90 for six-axle trucks.
“You add 5% to that, this is horrible,” said a Cason Transport dispatcher.
More than 100 million commercial vehicles hit the tolls while passing through the Albany metro area annually. Traversing the region is the I-87 Montreal-New York City and I-90 Boston-Buffalo corridor, as well as the northern terminus of I-88, the Senator Warren M. Anderson Expressway, which connects Rotterdam to the Binghamton area.
The Executive Group logistics firm moved from Bayonne, N.J., to Amsterdam in the late 2010s to take advantage of the low cost and strategic positioning on I-90. Principal Lance Orcutt said that the Executive Group can easily foot a 5% increase in the bill, while pursuing projects back and forth from Boston.
“Those numbers are so insignificant, it’s not really going to matter, I don’t think,” Orcutt said.
Another 5% would be added to the total on E-ZPass users come 2027, as mapped out in NYSTA’s forthcoming proposal. NYSTA also hopes to increase the toll rate on the Mario Cuomo Bridge 50 cents a year within a three-year span, increasing to $7.75 by 2027.
Toll rates would be frozen in 2023. Under three state laws, NYSTA is required to hold several public hearings and extend public comment before putting the proposal to a final vote at some point next year.
NYSTA spokesperson Jon Dougherty pointed out that the system’s rates are still among the “lowest in the nation.” While NYSTA ranks no. 8 nationwide in systemwide toll road costs, it is no. 22 in peak rates per mile within the northeastern quadrant.
Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the latter of which has the most expensive toll road in the world, approved toll increases earlier this year.
“As a tolling authority, we receive no state, federal or local tax dollars to support our operations, and when effective, we will not have had a system-wide toll increase for NY E-ZPass customers in 14 years,” Dougherty said in a statement. “This is a responsible financial plan to ensure the Authority will meet its growing capital and infrastructure needs for a system that is approaching 70 years in age.”
More than 85 of the toll road’s aging bridges are in need of replacement, according to NYSTA.
The thruway system was first established in New York state in 1954 and fully completed six years later. Its mainline runs 426 miles, the longest of its kind in the United States.
At Trans-Border Global Freight Systems, a logistics firm based in Round Lake, some 30% of the overall work is in New York state. Trucking services are outsourced. Chief Financial Officer Josh Spiegel said that it’s hard to say how Trans-Border Global Freight Systems would be impacted by the hike.
“It doesn’t surprise me and like any other increase we’ve seen, we’ve endured for the past two to three years increases that have been unprecedented,” Spiegel said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Spiegel said that the company has been tested by supply chain fractures, some of which, including trucking, haven’t been fully restored.
“You can still get it done, it just costs more to do it and sometimes takes longer,” said Spiegel. “In our industry, that’s not a good combination: longer time and expensive. We want to do it quicker and cheaper.”
NYSTA’s adjustment proposal has received blowback, namely from lawmakers who argue the move places a tax-like burden on travelers across the state.
State Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, in the wake of the news, touted his proposal co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred Thiele, D-Sag Harbor, to require legislative approval for any thruway toll increase. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara D-Rotterdam, who was “shocked” to hear about the NYSTA toll adjustment, introduced a two-year freeze.
Doughtery explained that most travelers save a vast sum with E-ZPass.
Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Meco, in a statement vowed to fight NYSTA’s proposal.
“This is outrageous, and I predict that more of our residents will pay higher tolls for the last time during their move to Florida or Texas,” said Smullen.
NYSTA abandoned a 45% toll increase on large trucks back in 2012 following opposition from groups including the New York State Trucking Association. The boost was intended to fix damage caused by three-plus-axle vehicles throughout the system.
@TylerAMcNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.