The Thruway Authority is hearing from New York Farm Bureau members across the state about how a proposed 45 percent toll hike on larger commercial vehicles will seriously hurt their businesses. Many are attending this week's public hearings and testifying about the likely hardships they will face. The extreme toll hike will not only be harmful to their bottom line, but it will also hit consumers in their wallets as well, as the increased transportation costs are passed down the food chain.
NYFB State Director and egg farmer Hal Kreher spoke in Buffalo and explained how the projected hike will cost his business an additional $500 a month in tolls. He is also concerned about paying more for feed for his chickens since it is trucked into his family farm in Clarence.
"Everything you get from a store got there on a truck. And if it passes through a warehouse in Buffalo, Rochester, or elsewhere, it may take more than one trip on a truck. This is going to impact the cost of all goods," Kreher told the Thruway Authority at the Buffalo hearing.
NYFB member Steve Wadhams is co-owner of Wadhams Enterprises, Inc., a family run transportation company in Phelps that hauls many products including milk. He is testifying in East Syracuse and expects to see a half-a-million dollar impact on his company.
And at the Newburgh hearing, NYFB member and horticulture farmer Ed Fairweather of Wessels' Farms in Otisville spoke about how the cost of deliveries to florists and garden centers will jump dramatically. He predicts it would cost him $3,600 more a year in tolls. To make up that money, Fairweather says he would have to sell 6,428 small flower pots to simply break even.
"This is taxation," Fairweather said. "The Thruway needs to rein in its own spending and not pass it on to the people. This is not right."
Additionally, if this toll hike is approved, New Yorkers can expect to see more truck traffic on rural roads as some haulers look to avoid the Thruway to cut costs. This is a safety concern for everyone as a growing number of large trucks will share two-lane roads with passenger cars and trucks.
Farmers understand the need to keep our roads and bridges structurally sound, but doing it on the backs of struggling farm families is not the answer. The Thruway Authority should first take steps recommended by its own consultants and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to get its financial house in order before it attempts to pass on the costs to hard working New Yorkers.