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Thruway adds to the high cost of living here

  Thruway Authority officials pressed a hot button with statewide motorists Friday by approving a 5 percent toll hike set to take effect for cash customers on Jan. 1.

   That follows a 10 percent toll increase last year, and precedes another 5 percent hike in 2010.

   What especially irks motorists this time is a toll jump in conjunction with soaring gasoline prices. It all makes what used to be a happy-go-lucky jaunt down the Thruway into a major financial undertaking.

   Just ask Susan Arena. The Williamsville resident recently started what she called a dream job as business administrator for the Silver Creek School District. Now she figures she will pay $44 per month in Thruway tolls on top of all she shells out at the pump.

   "It's becoming a huge financial burden especially with the cost of gasoline," she said Friday.

   Arena is not alone. Costs are going up for everything -- gasoline, tolls, food -- you name it. And in economically depressed Western New York, it all starts to add up.

   The latest toll hike has prompted lots of outrage. Rep. Brian Higgins and Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, both Buffalo Democrats, expressed their frustration on Friday. Schroeder even called for the Thruway Authority to be abolished.

   But of the six members of the Thruway Authority, only Niagara County's Jeff Williams cast a negative vote on Friday. It just seems there is no stopping the rise in prices -- especially when it comes to driving your car.

   -- Robert J. McCarthy


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