Updated: 05/16/2014 7:37 PM
Created: 05/16/2014 7:13 PM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch
ALBANY – A massive infrastructure project downstate is raising concerns about a possible toll hike on the 570-mile New York State Thruway.
The Thruway Authority is overseeing construction of the New NY Bridge, a $4 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee. The money is coming from a federal loan and toll-backed bonds, a spokesman said.
But the Authority’s budget shows that toll revenues are projected to fall short by $67.1 million in 2015, $193.1 million in 2016, and $276.1 million in 2017: a total of $536.3 million over three years.
E.J. McMahon, president of the fiscally-conservative Empire Center for Public Policy, told NewsChannel 13 a toll hike is inevitable given the Authority’s forecast.
"Something has got to give," McMahon said. "Basically what's happening now is that nobody is really being up front and honest here about what the choices are and what the answer is going to be."
Thruway Authority spokesman Dan Weiller said no toll increases are planned for 2014. Asked about future years, he said a task force will be formed to "look at the revenue needs and how to address them."
Weiller declined to speculate on what the task force might recommend. But Bert Mitchell, who drives on the Thruway, said he thinks the decision is already made -- and that a toll hike is coming.
"They have it all planned out already," said Mitchell, of Albany. "They're just preparing us, and letting us know that it's going on. They're going to do it."
Anne O’Brien Carelli, who travels extensively on the Thruway for work, told NewsChannel 13 a toll hike would have an impact on her budget.
"I would want to take a close look at how much it is," said Carelli, of Delmar. "But, generally, I don't object because I find (the Thruway) to be very efficient. I find that it's maintained very well."
And Ralph Duncan, of Albany, summed it up with a note of hopelessness: "What (are) you going to do? You've got places to go. You're going to pay it."
In 2012, the Thruway Authority abandoned a proposed 45 percent toll hike for truckers and other commercial users. It now receives a share of state funding instead.