October 23, 2008
DiNapoli: Thruway Capital Plan Not Clear
Audit Raises Troubling Questions Whether Recent Toll Hikes Justified
The State Thruway Authority’s Capital Plan for 2005-2011 does not identify priority projects or specify whether projects are on time or on budget, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. In addition, the plan will cost significantly more than the $2.7 billion projected and take much longer to complete.
“In January, I said the Thruway Authority should hold off on toll hikes,” DiNapoli said. “The Thruway Authority had not looked at its own spending or prioritized projects. Now the Thruway is pushing back the very projects it used to justify the toll increase in the first place. It begs the question even more: were the toll hikes necessary?"
“Everything is still muddled. We still don’t know if the Thruway toll hikes were necessary. There is a lack of transparency that makes it hard for New Yorkers to understand why they’re paying higher tolls.”
DiNapoli’s office initiated a series of audits of the Thruway Authority’s operations and finances after the Thruway Authority proposed several toll hikes. In January, DiNapoli urged the Thruway to conduct a thorough analysis of its expenses and operations as well as prioritize capital projects before raising tolls. The Thruway Authority Board voted to raise tolls, claiming the extra revenues were needed because of decreased traffic and in order to pay for the capital plan.
The audit released today examined whether the Thruway Authority was adequately monitoring and reporting on the status of the capital plan. The $2.7 billion capital plan consists of more than 300 projects valued at approximately $2.14 billion for bridge and highway projects, $342 million for equipment and other facility capital needs, $250 million for the Canal System, and $7 million for economic development projects. These projects include more than 500 project items, such as road resurfacing and safety upgrades.
Auditors found it difficult to track the status of the various projects and project items included in the capital plan. Unlike other public transportation entities in the state, the Thruway Authority does not publish a comprehensive list of projects or project items, nor closely track progress. Only parts of the plan are published for management, the board and certain state policymakers. Auditors noted that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) entire capital plan and all changes are reported to the MTA’s board and are made available to the public on its Web site.
DiNapoli’s audit also found:
DiNapoli’s auditors recommended the Thruway Authority:
The Thruway Authority generally accepts the findings in the audit and has implemented or will implement many of the recommendations. The Thruway Authority’s full response is included in the audit.
Click here for a copy of the audit.
Click here for a copy of the January press release regarding the proposed Thruway Toll Increases.