Tonawanda News

Local News

January 27, 2008

NYS THRUWAY: Comptroller says no need for higher tolls

BUFFALO — With a collection of federal and state legislators, Republicans and Democrats alike, standing behind him and nodding their agreement Sunday, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli delivered a resounding response to plans by the State Thruway Authority to raise tolls on their highway this summer.

“The Thruway Authority should call off its toll hike and postpone any future hikes until it completes any analysis of its operations,” DiNapoli said.

The comptroller said he based that conclusion on an 8-week audit of Thruway Authority operations that he said identified a “number of cost steps the authority should take.”

DiNapoli also said the Thruway Authority should also shed its operation of the Erie Canal, but admitted it’s not clear exactly how that can be done. A statewide referendum in 1992 moved control of the canal from the state Department of Transportation to the Thruway Authority.

However, the comptroller said a decision on the future operation of the canal should not become a “distraction” for the authority.

“They (the Thruway Authority) should not allow discussion of the canal to detour them from the steps they must take,” DiNapoli said. “It’s easy to raise tolls, but the Thruway Authority should take a look in the mirror before it raises tolls.”

In audits that looked at the proposed toll increases, uncollected E-ZPass tolls and fees and one which reviewed the governance and controls over the canal corporation, DiNapoli’s auditors had harsh words for who the authority does business.

“The findings raise questions as to the management cultural of the Thruway Authority,” the auditors wrote. “(One in which the authority) turns first to tolls to solve problems, without fully addressing significant and recurring operating problems.”

Rus Thompson, a Grand Island resident and vocal critic of the authority and opponent of the toll increases, said the audits are an important first step to changing how the Thruway Authority is run.

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