I've never been big on resolutions, a fact that keeps a smile on the lips of many a local barkeep. But I've been thinking I need to make some changes.
I've never been big on resolutions, a fact that keeps a smile on the lips of many a local barkeep. But I've been thinking I need to make some changes. (You can remove those clasped hands from your chests, barkeeps -- this doesn't concern you.)
Through a combination of habit and convenience, I, too, routinely support institutions that, were I to give it half a second’s thought, I would all but boycott.
Take the New York State Thruway. Please. Because I’m done with it.
Sure, it allows you to travel from Rochester to Albany at a cool 85 mph (75 mph if the troopers are out), but it is one of the most exhausting thoroughfares ever devised by engineers.
For one thing, it’s monotonous. If you’ve ever seen Fred Flintstone run through his house and pass the same end table with the same lamp on it under the same window 10 or 12 times, you know what it's like to drive on the Thruway. Such scenic similarity can lead to boredom, not to mention disappointment. Many is the day I’ve been motoring along in a monotony-induced haze, thinking I’m only an exit from my destination when I see a sign and realize I’m still, like, six exits out.
Which leads to another Thruway drawback: The interchanges are way too far apart. God forbid you miss your exit; you'll have a good hour’s round trip driving to next one, getting off the Thruway, getting back on, and driving back to your exit. (Unless you want to risk making a U-turn; your car better have great pickup as you try to merge into 75 mph traffic.)
The Thruway also tends to ice over quickly in winter weather — especially near Syracuse and between Rochester and Buffalo. This usually slows traffic to about 72 mph.
And on top of all of this, the Thruway Authority would like drivers to pay an additional 20 percent over the next few years. Five-percent toll hikes for 2009 and 2010 were proposed earlier this year to follow a 10-percent increase on tap for January. Bridge tolls downstate would also increase. (Driving in and out of Manhattan used to require a roll of quarters; now it's more like a wad of twenties.)
Thruway officials cited a $5.2 million decline in toll receipts, compared to the same period the previous year, as the main culprit. If you go to the Web site and read through the Thruway Authority’s meeting minutes (possibly the only activity in the world more boring than driving on the Thruway Authority’s road) you'll find that expenses for the same period — the first five months of 2007 — were up $9 million.
The authority did enjoy more income from rental concessions.
“Chairman (John) Buono observed that the numbers imply that people are driving less and eating more,” state the minutes from the July 18 meeting.
That’s one interpretation, we guess. Eating is, after all, just one of the thousands of things I’d do more of rather than drive on the Thruway.
The rate hikes are annoying because a) the Thruway was supposed to become toll-free 11 years ago when its bonds were paid off; and b) the rates were just raised two years ago — by 25 percent for passenger vehicles and 35 percent for commercial vehicles. There’s also the recent story detailing how the Thruway Authority shelled out some $8.7 million in overtime in 2006. How this is possible with the increased use of E-ZPass, which should, in theory, reduce man hours (and, yes, woman hours) is a puzzler.
Fortunately, state legislators, no longer preoccupied with the Great Illegal Immigrant Driver’s Licensing Panic of 2007, have turned their attention to the Authority. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli plans to audit the agency, which, in response, has postponed a vote to approve the rate hikes.
As for me, I’m voting with my feet. OK, my wheels.
I’ve become a Thruway ex-patriot. Ask not for whom the tolls swell. It ain’t me.
Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each week in the Sunday Messenger. Contact him at (585) 394-0770/Ext. 257 or by e-mail at KFrisch@ MPNewspapers.com.