The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) has  filed a lawsuit over what it said is improper tolling practices by the New York Thruway Authority. According to ATA, the Thruway Authority diverts millions of dollars in toll revenues every year to maintain the tourism and recreational facilities that make up the New York Canal System.

“During these times of underfunding highway infrastructure, we cannot afford to have tolling authorities take the money users pay for maintenance and upkeep of the roadways and use it for recreational or other unrelated purposes,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO. “When truckers pay for access to the Thruway, tens of millions of dollars of their toll payments go to the steep costs of the Canal System, which they derive no benefit from.”

According to ATA, the Thruway Authority has owned the Canal System since 1992, spending over $100 million yearly to support it.

“The Canal System generates plenty of economic activity for nearby towns, drawing hundreds of millions of tourism dollars to surrounding communities every year. But those who benefit from the canals pay a tiny fraction of their upkeep,” said Richard Pianka, chief counsel of the ATA Litigation Center. “This amounts to a serious burden on interstate commerce, and is prohibited by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
The Thruway’s toll rates violate the Commerce Clause because they “are not based on a fair approximation of commercial truckers’ use of the Thruway,” and “are excessive in relation to the benefits conferred on commercial truckers for paying those tolls,” ATA said.

“Truckers and motor carriers work hard to run their businesses efficiently and deliver the goods that are the lifeblood of the national economy at a reasonable price. Especially in these difficult economic times, they cannot also be expected to foot the bill for New York’s recreational facilities,” Pianka said. “Tempting as it may be, the Constitution doesn’t allow states to solve difficult internal revenue and spending problems by putting them on the back of interstate commerce.”

The lawsuit, American Trucking Associations, Inc., et al. v. New York State Thruway Authority, et al.¸ was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. ATA is represented by the ATA Litigation Center and by Evan M. Tager, Richard B. Katskee and Thomas P. Wolf of Mayer Brown LLP.