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Carole Estabrook

Rumors are flying that the New York State Thruway Authority is going to increase tolls to help finance the Tappan Zee Bridge project in the New York City area.

Thruway Executive Director Thomas Madison insists that the bridge will be addressed using separate funding and that the toll increase would be applied to commercial vehicles to help offset the cost to repair the damage caused by large trucks.

No percentage has been set, but the rumored figure could represent as much as a 45 percent increase to commercial vehicles.

On one hand, the increase is still at or below the toll rates in neighboring states. And the cost to repair the damage caused by big trucks is astronomical. On the other hand, small businesses will likely struggle to keep up with the toll hike, giving larger corporations a competitive edge. And increased tolls may push a lot of trucks off the highway, rerouting traffic through towns and villages.

Nobody likes to see rising tolls. Even if the hike only applies to commercial vehicles, when the cost of transporting goods increases then the cost of goods will increase too. So the decision will impact consumers even if rates for passenger vehicles remain the same.

At the same time, money doesn’t grow on trees. The Thruway is in desperate need of maintenance and there isn’t any money to fix it. Besides which, the thruway rates have been the same rate for over two years so we are probably overdue for an increase anyway.

Can we increase rates without negatively affecting commerce? And can we raise toll rates without forcing commercial traffic down Main Street? I think we can if we all share the burden.

Instead of forcing all commercial vehicles to swallow a 45 percent increase, I would vote in favor of a 15 percent increase for passenger vehicles and a 25 percent increase for commercial vehicles. Not quite 45 percent, but we’re getting warmer.

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And I would rather pay 20 percent more in tolls than pay 45 percent more at the grocery store after shipping rates skyrocket. As it is buying milk is like buying a fine wine. Soon cereal will become a delicacy.

I would also be in favor of the increase if only to keep commercial traffic on the highways. If commercial vehicles are tearing up the thruway, just imagine the damage these vehicles could do to our county roads.

Bottom line: I think a toll hike is in order. But I don’t think trucking companies should have to shoulder that burden alone.

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Estabrook's column appears Mondays in The Citizen. She can be contacted at estabrookcarole@yahoo.com

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