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How to weigh in on Thruway toll hikes for drivers without E-ZPass, Mario Cuomo Bridge

Jon Campbell
New York State Team

Motorists will have three chances to weigh in on toll increases on the New York Thruway system before they're set to kick in next year.

The state Thruway Authority will hold virtual hearings Oct. 13, 14 and 15 on its plan to increase tolls by 30% for drivers without E-ZPass beginning in 2021, by which time the 570-mile superhighway will have switched to a toll-by-mail system for non-E-ZPass users.

The proposal would also increase the E-ZPass toll rate for passenger vehicles crossing the Westchester-bound span of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to $5.25 in 2021 and $5.75 in 2022, up from the current $4.75.

The bridge toll would be frozen at $4.75 for Westchester and Rockland County residents through 2022, while a 40% discount for frequent commuters would remain.

The Mario M. Cuomo Bridge was lit blue Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

E-ZPass toll rates would remain steady on the rest of the tolled portion of the Thruway system, which includes Interstate 90 from Buffalo to Albany and Interstate 87 from Albany to New York City.

The Thruway Authority voted in December to begin the toll-hike process, which requires public hearings and a comment period before the board can vote it into effect.

Thruway tolls last increased in 2010.

Under normal circumstances, those hearings would be held in person. Instead, the authority will host the hearings virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first hearing will be held Oct. 13 from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by Oct. 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. and Oct. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m.

How to comment

Those interested in speaking at the hearings can pre-register by emailing public.info@thruway.ny.gov or calling 518-471-5300 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, according to the Thruway Authority. 

Motorists can also submit comments by emailing tollcomments@thruway.ny.gov or mailing Toll Comments, c/o Legal Department, New York State Thruway Authority, 200 Southern Blvd., P.O. Box 189, Albany, NY 12201-0189. 

Toll vote expected Dec. 1

The Thruway board is expected to vote on the toll-increase proposal at its Dec. 1 meeting. It would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

The proposed toll hike is meant to increase funding for the Thruway Authority, which relies almost entirely on toll revenue for a budget that exceeds $1 billion annually.

The Thruway Authority owns the $4 billion Mario Cuomo Bridge, which replaced the aging Tappan Zee Bridge in 2017.

Cashless tolling coming in November

Cashless tolling being installed on Interstate 90, this one that passes under Clover St. in Pittsford. Construction on this gantry was ongoing on August 12, 2020

The toll increase serves a secondary purpose of encouraging drivers to sign up for E-ZPass before November, when the Thruway is launching a cashless-tolling system.

Under the new system, drivers will pass through overhead tolling gantries with cameras and sensors that capture their license plate or E-ZPass unit rather than stopping at a booth to pay a toll collector.

E-ZPass users will see the toll automatically deducted from their accounts. Those without E-ZPass will get a bill sent via mail to the registered owner's home.

More:The new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge toll has been proposed. Here's what it would be.

More:New York thinks it can save $300M on its Mario Cuomo Bridge debt. Here's how.

More:Cashless tolling remains on track for Thruway despite pandemic

Any mailed bill would carry a $2 surcharge for motorists under the Thruway's proposal.

The proposal would charge any driver without E-ZPass 30% more for tolls than those with E-ZPass.

That means a $5.25 toll for an E-ZPass user would cost a non-E-ZPass user $6.83, plus the $2 surcharge on the monthly bill.

Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.