Local groups and individuals should begin mounting a campaign now to voice objections to a proposed Thruway toll increase that appears more and more likely every day.

Local groups and individuals should begin mounting a campaign now to voice objections to a proposed Thruway toll increase that appears more and more likely every day. 

Last week, a key committee of the state Thruway Authority approved a measure that would increase tolls by 5 percent in 2009 and again in 2010. The increases would be in addition to the 10-percent increase in cash rates that begins in January. Authority officials claim the increases are needed because rising fuel prices are limiting travel, and that’s cutting revenue needed for its $2.1 billion highway and bridge repair plan. 

Such thinking is convoluted. If use is down because of high fuel prices, what makes the authority think it will increase revenue by raising tolls? Such timing is more likely to have the exact opposite effect, as more motorists decide to travel less or find alternate routes. 

THE AUTHORITY Write to the following and tell them a toll increase on the Thruway is not in the best interest of New York state: 

* Michael R. Fleischer, Esq., executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority 

Board of Directors: 

* John L. Buono, chairman 

* Nancy E. Carey Cassidy 

* Jeffrey D. Williams 

* Erin M. Crotty 

* Frederick M. Howard 

* Kevin J. Plunkett 

* E. Virgil Conway 

Address: New York State Thruway Authority, 200 Southern Blvd., P.O. Box 189, Albany, NY 12201-0189

The proposal is nothing more than a fiscal assault on the people of this state and will prove detrimental to economic development. 

The proposal goes before the full authority board today and could be the subject of public hearings in January and February. A final vote could come in March. 

People need to protest. We saw that public clout can work after voters voiced overwhelming disapproval with the governor following his proposal to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. After a poll showed a dramatic dip in his popularity, Spitzer backed off. 

It’s tougher with authorities since those members aren’t elected and can pretty much act with little public oversight. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a public responsibility. With fuel prices soaring, adding more financial burden to motorists and others whose business requires interstate travel will become one more incentive to stay clear of New York, further impeding an already choking upstate economy. 

While the Legislature has no official say in the matter, elected leaders can carry clout, especially in the wake of recent investigations of public authorities and repeated calls for reform. Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations and Public Authorities, has voiced his concerns over the proposed toll hike, and Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, says she has sent letters to authorities members voicing her concerns. 

Write Brodsky, Destito and other local legislators and tell them to keep up the pressure. Demand that they hold authority members accountable for their actions. 

Write, also, to the Authority board members themselves and tell them that a Thruway toll hike at this time is not the best interest of New York state.