By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- The Thruway Authority’s plan to hike tolls on trucks by 45 percent has been a classic Albany roller coaster ride, culminating in today’s story that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is announcing a new proposal that calls for no toll hike.
Consider the ride:
Initially, officials said the Thruway had been mismanaged for years and that the $90 million from the toll hike was needed to stop the bleeding. They said at the time the increase had nothing to do with a potential $5 billion plan by Cuomo and the Thruway Authority to build a new downstate bridge over the Hudson River.
Next up came the acknowledgement that there was a connection: if the toll hike didn’t go through, it could lead to rating downgrades on agency borrowings – and that could raise the price of the bridge project.
In the early fall, the agency borrowed $1.1 billion on the bond market. It told investors -– in a legal document -– that it “has no reason to believe’’ that the toll hike plan as proposed would be scuttled. That document told investors the plan would go into effect in late September.
A series of delays, including two embarassing postponements with just hours' notice of Thruway board meetings in one week last month, became the obvious evidence that the toll increase was suddenly facing real internal troubles in the Cuomo administration. That led Donna Luh, a representative from Western New York on the agency’s board who serves as vice-chairwoman, to blast her own agency in an article in The Buffalo News. She said agency officials were keeping board members in the dark about the toll plan and that she no longer believed the increase was necessary.
At two recent events, Cuomo then began lashing out at the idea proposed by his own agency. At one event, he said such a toll hike could be “detrimental’’ to the state’s economy, followed by another event at which he told reporters the toll hike should only be considered as a “last resort.”