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LAWMAKER LABELS PROPOSED THRUWAY TOLL HIKE A 'MOCKERY'

The proposal to raise tolls on the Thruway and link them to construction costs has at least one Southtowns lawmaker seeing red and firing off letters.

"Supposedly, the Thruway Authority is in the process of conducting a study with the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Authority to look at the possible removal of tolls within the commuting range of Buffalo," Hamburg Town Councilwoman Kathleen Courtney Hochul said. "To call for an increase even before the study is released makes a mockery of their efforts and calls into question the objectivity necessary for a fair study."

After the Thruway Authority announced in 1998 that it was planning to move the Williamsville toll barrier, Hochul rallied area towns in a lobbying effort to move the Lackawanna toll barrier and the tolls for the Hamburg and Eden-Evans exits.

Last February, the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council agreed to study whether any tolls in the Buffalo area could be removed. The Regional Transportation Council is looking at the impact of tollbooths on traffic congestion, and the Thruway Authority was examining the economic impact of moving tollbooths.

The Thruway Authority plans to increase tolls as much as 3 percent in June, and then tie annual increases to the cost of construction across the country.

Hochul said she is writing to the Thruway Authority chairman to complain and is enlisting the help of the Chamber of Commerce, trucking industry, elected officials and others in the region.

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