After receiving the latest correspondence from the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA), Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) believes the Authority is too caught up in Albany bureaucracy to recognize they are exploiting Western New York commuters.
“The Thruway Authority hides behind numbers and twists historical data but they fail to provide us with a simple answer to this question: why is the I-190 is the only arterial highway out of twenty-five highways in upstate New York that collects a toll?” said Congressman Higgins.
In his response Higgins suggested that, “in the future, the Niagara Section of the Thruway could be managed as a non-toll road by the Thruway Authority, in the same way that you presently manage the I-84 and the I-287 downstate, or it could be managed by the State DOT in the same manner as the twenty-four other free arterial highways which connect urban and suburban communities to the mainline Thruway across Upstate. The nuance of which gubernatorially controlled bureaucracy manages this-or-that stretch of roadway is fundamentally unimportant to end users. What matters, from the perspective of your constituents and mine, is that ours is the only upstate arterial with tolls.”
In a letter to Congressman Higgins from NYSTA Executive Director Michael Fleischer dated April 18, 2006, the Authority confirms it collected $13 million from local residents at the Breckenridge and Ogden Streets tolls last year alone. Fleischer also pointed out that 1992 State legislation authorizes the Authority to continue to collect tolls on the I-190.
“We appreciate the fact that the Thruway Authority is following the law when they are raiding our wallets, but that doesn’t make it right,” said Congressman Higgins.
In a letter to the NYSTA dated April 19, 2006, Congressman Higgins responded to Mr. Fleischer by explaining that toll collection is creating a double taxation on Western New Yorkers who use the I-190. Higgins noted in addition to the $42 million in federal funds used for the initial construction of the I-190, the Authority used almost $194 million in additional federal money over the last 30 years for reconstruction of the Niagara Section. Therefore Western New Yorkers paid for the roadway once with gasoline tax, which funds federal highway programs, and again with a commuter tax, which are the tolls collected at Ogden and Breckenridge.
“Of course the Authority doesn’t want to give up the collection of tolls along the Niagara Section of the Thruway, they have come to rely on taking the money out of the pockets of Western New Yorkers to feed pet projects across the state,” said Congressman Higgins. “This community will not fall prey to their hollow threats of higher taxes and we will not be bullied by Albany bureaucrats. We will stand up and fight for what is fair for Western New York”