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Operating costs at the New York State Thruway Authority have increased 36 percent in the last 10 years, well ahead of revenues, an analysis released Wednesday by the state comptroller’s office says.
The analysis comes as the Thruway Authority moves toward a 45 percent increase in tolls for large commercial vehicles. The hike is scheduled to be in place Sept. 30.
“Imposing a large toll increase could have damaging effects on consumers and businesses at a time when many New Yorkers are struggling to recover from the recession,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement.
In 10 years, debt service payments have nearly doubled, to $181.9 million, the analysis says, and the Thruway Authority has failed to publicly prioritize its capital projects.
The authority expects debt service to be $312.4 million by 2016, a 72 percent jump, the analysis says.
“Too often in the past, the Thruway has pushed costs and difficult decisions to the future by raising tolls or borrowing,” DiNapoli said. “The Thruway’s fiscal condition has deteriorated, but a new leadership team has begun to make changes.”
The authority should explore all other options to increase revenue and cut costs before raising tolls, DiNapoli said.
Tolls have been increased four times since 2005, the last coming in 2010.
DiNapoli also called for a review of the state Canal System, operated by the Thruway Authority, to find savings and alternative revenue sources and to create a plan to make it more viable in Upstate New York.
The Thruway Authority has spent $1.1 billion on the Canal System since 1992, the analysis says, with boating activity down nearly 33 percent since the authority took control.
Another $436.5 million will be spent on operations and repairs between 2013 and 2016, according to authority estimates.
The report reflects what the Unshackle Upstate coalition of businesses has been saying for months, Rochester-based executive director Brian Sampson said in a separate statement.
“A Thruway toll increase must be the last option, not the first option,” Sampson said. “Unshackle Upstate and our partners in this fight will testify at this week’s hearings and will continue to do everything in our power to put a stop to this devastating toll increase.”
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