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      Truck drivers question Thruway Authority's plan to raise tolls by 45%

      For single truck owners like Bruce Swanson, tolls make up a huge portion of his expenses. Swanson paid $8,000 this year to the New York State Thruway and if a proposed 45% increased toll on large trucks goes through, Swanson will be paying $3500 more per year.

      "It's not something you can plan for - it's right off the top and the top isn't that great,?? Swanson says.

      Swanson and dozens of other truckers and business owners told the Thruway how much a 45% toll increase would hurt business in New York State today at a meeting in East Syracuse. An overwhelming majority of the crowd was against the toll hike - and many openly questioned the Thruway Authority's costs and management. Many say that such an increase would be a severe blow to the quality of business operation throughout the state. Ken Johnson, CEO of Leonard Express, is one of many who are against the toll increase.

      "Only in politics and government could a forty five percent increase be considered modest. It??s a jobs killer, a budget basher that's totally uncalled for," Johnson says.

      Tom Madison, the Thruway Authority's executive director, said today that the Authority is working on ways to be more efficient. The State Thruway is more than 50 years old, and Madison strongly believes that reconstructing it is crucial. He says the large trucks that would pay the toll increase cause 10,000 times more wear and tear on the road than smaller vehicles.

      "We have 570 miles of New York State Thruway and only 70 miles of that system have ever been fully reconstructed. So there are areas where we need to make significant capital investments in order to keep the system reliable," says Madison.

      The Thruway Authority says that even with the proposed increase, the tolls on large trucks will be lower than the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes. Truckers say that in order to reduce costs, more companies would need to use alternate routes through small towns in the Finger Lakes area.

      New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli recently said the Thruway Authority needs to reduce wasteful spending before increasing tolls.