INTERVIEW: CenterState CEO President Talks Suspending Thruway Tolls During I-81 Redesign

Posted on April 13, 2022

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CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson shared his thoughts on how the Thruway could be utilized during the construction period of the I-81 project to mitigate traffic issues.

In his recent commentary, state Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli proposes legislation to eliminate New York Thruway tolls between exits 34A and 39 for the duration of the Interstate 81 construction period. CenterState CEO similarly advocated to eliminate tolls on the NYS Thruway in our Community Grid Plus position. Our 10-point plan takes into consideration the many positive and adverse impacts on stakeholders across the region and offers solutions to address the broader regional transportation system.

As the Central New York community prepares to embark on this $2 billion construction project, leaders must begin advancing mitigation measures. It is important to remember that, while the focus of the project is on the elevated section of I-81, the project also includes work on I-690, I-81 and I-481. It is expected at times that all three highways will be under construction simultaneously. Therefore, the state should invest in and incentivize traffic alternatives during the construction period to reduce driver delays and emissions from cars slowed by construction and enhance the safety of workers. As the Thruway runs parallel to I-690, it is a strong alternative to bypass construction and achieve all these outcomes.

While we believe eliminating tolls during construction is the right decision, we also recognize the challenges raised by Thruway Authority Executive Director Matt Driscoll, including the need to meet revenue projections to protect the Thruway’s bond rating. Under Driscoll’s leadership, the Thruway is well-run, fiscally stable, and making leading edge investments in technology, including cashless tolling and the use of drones for bridge inspections, accident recreation and more.

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