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State Senator objects to Thruway toll increase for non-E-ZPass holders

New York State Thruway Authority

A state senator is objecting to a proposal by the New York State Thruway Authority to raise tolls for drivers who don’t have an E-ZPass.

The Thruway Authority Board of Directors is poised at its meeting on Dec. 1 to approve a 30% increase for cars where drivers do not have the electronic toll pass, effective in January.

The Thruway recently switched to cashless tolling and for those who have an E-ZPass, there will be no increase. The price hike is aimed at encouraging people to sign up for the electronic pass.

State Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Schenectady area, says that plan discriminates against the state’s poorest individuals, who might not have a credit card or bank account, which are needed to activate an E-ZPass account. He says the program also requires a $10 initial deposit and mandates that there always be a positive cash balance in the account.

“It’s a terrible plan,” Tedisco who said there are many New Yorkers at or below the poverty level who don’t have a credit card, or a checking account.  

But he says they still need to use the Thruway for needed medical treatment, or they could be essential, but low-paid workers who need to get to their jobs.

“It makes no sense whatsoever,” he said.

Tedisco compares the decision by the Thruway Authority in the midst of the holiday season to the Grinch stealing Christmas. He is drafting legislation that would waive any toll increase, fee or surcharge for New York state motorists who are at or below the federal poverty line.

The legislature currently has no set date to return to session before the end of the year, although legislative leaders have not ruled one out.

The Thruway Authority says there are alternatives available for those who can’t afford the standard method of using the E-ZPass. Spokeswoman Jennifer Givner says a pre-paid credit card or money order can be used and there is also a pay-per-trip option, where a pre-paid balance is not required.

A $10 deposit is still required for the electronic tag.

“With the holiday season quickly approaching, we’re glad Senator Tedisco is focused on saving money for his constituents, which is exactly what E-ZPass does,” Givner said.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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