Inspection- The New York State Stealway

When I think of how some on the Right would run government, I think of the New State Thruway, or “the Stealway,” as I refer to it. Instead of some big “socialist give away;” where our taxes get used to build and maintain an interstate system, you do it on a state by state basis. And you pay for it with tolls. You eventually invite the corporations in to serve food at the rest stops: vend out what you can. I expect some pols salivate at the idea of vending everything out and having the Thruway purely corporate run.

I tour: educational activities and shows for young children. I have been doing that since 1984… touring since 1988. My wife and I also own a home we hope to retire to in New York State. So I use the interstate system and the New York State Thruway a lot. We both also grew up, went to college and had friends we visited frequently in various locations in New York… from close to “the city,” to the Adirondacks, to the Mohawk Valley, to Rochester/Buffalo, to Plattsburgh/Potsdam, Corning/Elmira/Binghamton.

So let’s just say we know New York State, its interstate system and the Thruway very well.

I can’t even begin to compare all the other free interstates I travel and the Thruway favorably. Hell, I can’t compare the toll-based Massachusetts Turnpike and the Thruway favorably. Hands down the Thruway is the most expensive and worst kept of all these high speed, multiple lane, roads I traverse so frequently. The Mass. Pike is far superior; and that state decided a number of years ago that the Western end of the state was suffering economically so they took off the tolls to boost the economy. It worked.

But don’t ever expect such rational thought in action from the pols in NY. The Mohawk Valley/Leatherstocking/Finger Lake region has been in economic Hell since I lived there in the 70s. But here’s the problem: the Thruway is a cash cow and NY pols are like political Hindus unwilling to sacrifice this divine bovine.

I remember my father told me, “Son, by the time you’ve been driving a few years, in the 70s, the Thruway will have been paid for. And NY has promised to make it free.”

Even my Conservative Dad chuckled at the irony by the time 80s rolled around and money from the Thruway started being diverted to odd projects, like a boat that gives the public tours on their own historical canals. Well, at least since we already paid for it with tolls, it’s free… right?

Are you kidding? When there’s a chance to worship another possible cash cow?

Then my father-in-law told me in 2000 it would be free.

Never guess what? Yup! Free? No way. Tolls jacked up to stupid? Yes, Sir. For my small tour bus: 23ft. motorhome towing a Nissan truck, they used to charge almost 3 times what’s an already outlandish rate… and charge for the truck as if I were driving it. Close to 4 times the rate overall. The last year I had that bus up there an attendant at a toll booth warned me by next year it would more than double. Never guess what never goes beyond northeast Ohio these days?

And big business has joined in the act. On the Thruway you’re stuck with “small” companies like McDonalds and high gas prices from the likes of Sunoco, for instance. You have no where else to go unless you get off. Get back on and you lose all financial incentive. It’s easy to tell that’s intentional.

The New York State Thruway is a perfect example of why sometimes it’s best if government; on a national scale, provide services directly, and also be in the business of regulating big business rather than being buddy buddy with them. Why? Because encouraging them to join hands simply encourages more ripping off of us; the consumers. When they are at odds maybe they can keep each other in line, if only a little. And it’s also a long term example of why, sometimes, it’s just better if government does it.

I know that’s an unpopular opinion these days.

But it’s the truth.

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Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

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