Trucking tolls in NY shouldn’t finance canal: Court

John G Smith

ARLINGTON, Va. – The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is applauding a federal court ruling against New York State for using the tolls paid by interstate truckers to finance unrelated tourism and recreation projects around the New York Canal System.

“Revenue from tolls must be spent maintaining the roads they’re collected on and not diverted to finance bike paths and waterways for recreational kayaking and canoeing,” said ATA Chris Spear, association president and CEO. “We hope today’s ruling will not only end this practice in New York, but dissuade other states from financing their budget shortfalls on the backs of our industry.”

The Thruway Authority charges tolls for using several major arteries used by motor carriers throughout the northeastern United States. Since 1992, however, the Thruway Authority has also invested $1.1 billion in the state’s Canal System. Annual costs have recently pushed above $100 million.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in the association’s favor in an August 10 opinion “because the Thruway Authority’s diversion of toll revenue collected from interstate truckers to maintain the Canal System violates the [Constitution’s] Dormant Commerce Clause.”

“It is certainly true that the Canal System is a valuable asset for the state of New York and the communities along it,” said Rich Pianka, ATA acting general counsel. “However, the residents of the state and those communities – not trucks passing through the state – should bear the burden of supporting the Canal.”

The court agreed.

“The canal system is a jewel in the crown of the Empire State, and some combination of New York taxpayers, local businesses benefitting from tourism revenue and the actual users of the Canal System’s many facilities should want to pay for its upkeep,” it ruled. “[But] the State of New York cannot insulate the Canal System from the vagaries of the political process and taxpayer preferences by imposing the cost of its upkeep on those on drive the New York Thruway in interstate commerce.”


John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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