According to an audit released May 26 by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, the Thruway Authority, which completed a transition to a cashless tolling system in 2020, has “struggled to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid fees.” The total of uncollected fees is hefty by any standard. As of March, it was $276.3 million in unpaid funds in collection status, with out-of-state drivers accounting for $119 million, or 43% of this amount.
The timing isn’t great for this news. In December, the Thruway Authority proposed that 2024 rates increase by 5% for E-ZPass holders statewide, with a second increase in 2027 of another 5%.
DiNapoli’s audit recommends ways the Thruway Authority could better identify, bill and collect tolls and related fees. The authority agreed with three of the audit’s 11 recommendations, and did not comment on whether it agreed or disagreed with eight others.
According to the audit, the clue as to where the leakage might be found is in the collection process. The audit “found a lapse in the authority’s recouping of unpaid tolls” after the expiration of a contract with the authority’s collections vendor in September 2020. The authority signed a contract with a new vendor in January 2021 but did not send the new vendor any of the remaining unpaid accounts until July 2021, nine months after the prior contract’s expiration.
More than 90% of Thruway revenue comes from tolls and related fees, with the vast majority coming from EZ-Pass users and the rest from toll-by-mail payments. As the audit noted, the Thruway Authority collected $804 million in tolls and related revenues in 2021.
Author(s): Editorial Board
Publication Date: 5 Jun 2023
Publication Site: The Buffalo News