The New York State Thruway Authority is owed $276.3 million in fees and tolls — with nearly half of that money owed by out-of-state drivers, according to an audit released Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
Auditors determined the authority needs to improve its work in finding, billing and collecting tolls and fees. Recommendations included ensuring sufficient systems and resources are in place for collecting fees, committing more resources to suspend registrations and improve the use of cameras to identify license plates.
The Thruway Authority broadly agreed with many of the recommendations.
"This audit has identified ways in which the Thruway can improve its collection of tolls and fees,” DiNapoli said. “Based on the Authority’s response, I’m hopeful action will be taken to implement our recommendations to maximize revenue for the Thruway."
In a response letter, interim Thruway Executive Director Frank Hoare wrote to auditors that officials at the authority "will continue to utilize all available tools at our disposal to fairly and effectively collect tolls and violation fees from our customers."
The audit was released as Thruway officials this year are weighing toll increases for the 496-mile system in order to raise revenue to bolster infrastructure.
Under the proposal, E-Z Pass customers would have their tolls increased by about 5% on the first day of 2024 and additional 5% increase would be in effect in January 2027 if granted final approval. Increases could be even larger for drivers who do not have E-Z Pass.
The vast majority of the Thruway Authority's revenue comes from tolls, about 90%. Cashless tolling was finalized in 2020 as a way of improving traffic flow and congestion. Third-party vendors are contracted with for tolling, collection and receivables.
Tolls for drivers who do not have E-Z Pass are collected through the mail. About 43% of the unpaid tolls and fees, about $119.3 million, is owed by drivers from outside New York.
Much of that money, $34.2 million, is owed by drivers from neighboring New Jersey. Connecticut drivers owe $16.7 million.
In a statement, the Thruway Authority said many of the recommendations in the audit are already being implemented.
“Since November 2020, more than 908 million transactions have been processed systemwide, a record 86 percent through E-ZPass. Over the course of the audit period from January 2019 to January 2023, the Thruway Authority collected approximately $3.27 billion in total revenues and maintained rigorous enforcement mechanisms to pursue toll scofflaws," a spokesman for the authority said. "The Thruway remains one of the safest super highways in the nation and continues to make every effort to collect unpaid tolls. As a user-fee system, the Thruway is not supported by any dedicated federal, state or local taxpayer funding. It is imperative that everyone pay their fair share to keep our tolls some of the lowest in the nation.”