NYS Exposed: Thruway Authority spent $35 million on toll collectors in 2016

October 09, 2017 11:34 PM

"I see the person there handing out, personally handing a ticket to the car," comments Tim Trausch, Thruway traveler. "I scratch my head and say this makes no sense."

For driver Tim Trausch, it's about saving money. He travels nationwide for work and has E-Z Pass, but thinks New York state needs to get with the times when he drives through a staffed toll plaza.


"The Thruway is unique in the fact that they've regressed in the way that they cover their costs, because it's got to be more expensive for that person then machine," Trausch explains.

The state Thruway Authority spent more than $35 million for its 1,200-plus toll collectors in 2016 -- including two that made more than $100,000 each. Tack on the added cost of benefits and a pension for the full-time collectors and Trausch sees a huge opportunity for savings.

He says. "You know, all business do more with less. That doesn't seem to be the case with the Thruway.”

Whether it's automated ticket machines, like neighboring New Jersey, or eliminating toll collectors -- like Trausch has seen done in Indiana -- he knows there are options.

New York State says it's working on it. "Long term it's efficient," says Governor Andrew Cuomo. "The initial cost is significant, what you have to do is design all those toll plazas they have to come down... We'll phase it in, but we'll phase it in a way that we can afford."

"The estimates we've seen is that it would cost anywhere between $500 million and $600 million to do it system-wide," says Mike Elmendorf.

Mike Elmendorf is the president and CEO of Associated General Contractors. The group represents the companies that do most of the work on the Thruway. He's concerned about any money being deferred from road and bridge repair.

"It's a much less exciting prospect to have high-speed electronic tolling if you've got a system that's falling apart," says Elmendorf.

Travelers like Trausch think that's short-sighted. The investment now could save taxpayers big money moving forward. "Let's do things right," says Trausch. "We know that the people depend on their jobs, are dependent on the Thruway, but again, gosh, there's a tremendous amount of taxpayers leaving New York State because they can't afford it."

The Thruway Authority points out they do have cash-less tolling on the Tappan Zee Bridge near New York City and plan to bring it to the Grand Island Bridge near Buffalo.

As for when we could see it upstate, we're still likely a ways off.


Brett Davidsen

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