Thruway Tolls Raise Questions

Jun 19, 2012

Some questions and concerns over thruway tolls and how emergency responders pay to use the superhighway - Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

In a letter reportedly sent to emergency service providers, New York State Thruway Department of Maintenance and Operations Deputy Director H. McCarthy Gipson, detailed a new law which requires the authority to collect and issue refunds for tolls incurred on the superhighway by ambulance or fire vehicles in emergency operations. Thruways officials suggest using EZpass  electronic readers.

Some of the emergency responders contacted by WAMC were not aware of any change in law: Mid-County Volunteer Ambulance Services serves Montgomery County - the vehicles often use the thruway: spokesman Brain Harrington says all of their emergency units carry EZpass.

Other Emergency Responders in places like Westchester, Dutchess and a few other counties say they rarely venture onto the superhighway ...UlsterCounty Fire Coordinator Charles Muntz notes that installing EZpass radios becomes an individual agency's responsibility.

Thruway officials would not go on tape but say they encourage ALL emergency responders to get EZpass, which would be charged upon use and credited later.

Some observers wonder why the Thruway charges tolls at all - the superhighway was supposed to have been "paid for" through tolls collected many years ago...

Robert Paaswell, distinguished professor of civil engineering at City College of New York, explains why tolls continue: he cites pockets of economic growth throughout the Hudson Valley, created as a result of the thruway, resulted in unexpected traffic which neccessitated additional funding for maintenance and repairs. Word came last week that toll hikes will be needed to improve the Thruway Authority's financial picture, after Standard & Poor’s downgraded its outlook on bonds issued by the Authority from stable to negative, expecting that the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge will tax the agency's finances.