New York State Thruway Authority

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

New York State Thruway Authority
Effectiveness of Cost Containment Initiatives


Issued: November 17, 2016
Link to full audit report 2015-S-59
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine what cost containment initiatives the New York State Thruway Authority (Authority) has undertaken and how effective it has been in reducing overall costs. The audit covers the period January 1, 2012 through January 13, 2016.

Background
The Authority is responsible for overseeing and maintaining the Thruway, a 570-mile tolled highway system that includes eight major bridges and maintenance responsibility for 809 other bridges that carry local roads and State highways over and under the Thruway, as well as for operation of the State’s 524-mile Canal System. Some segments of the Thruway and its bridges are over 60 years old and are nearing the last stages of their projected useful lives. In 2014, the Authority expended about $1.1 billion (excluding costs for the New NY Bridge Project), including approximately $711 million to support Thruway operations, $281 million for its capital program, and $66 million for New York State Canal Corporation (Canal Corporation) operations. Although the Authority’s fiscal condition has shown some improvement in recent years, significant financial concerns still remain. For example, the Authority’s use of debt increased and, as a result, its total liabilities rose nearly 80 percent, from $3.5 billion in 2010 to $6.4 billion in 2014.

Key Findings

  • The Authority has implemented several cost reduction strategies, ranging from deferring capital repairs and improvements to increasing operational efficiencies and exploring new revenue opportunities. However, the Authority has not measured the total impact of its overall efforts. The extent of its measurement of savings is limited to payroll and benefit expenses, with estimated savings averaging about $26 million per year between 2010 and 2014.
  • As a result of its efforts, the Authority’s operating revenues are presently sufficient to cover its day-to-day operating expenses. However, some sections of the Thruway and its bridges are over 60 years old and are at or nearing the end of their projected useful life span. Yet the Authority estimates that only about 10 percent of the roadway and 20 percent of the bridges have been replaced or reconstructed. The Authority estimates that the current cost to return the highway to its original condition would total about $13 billion.
  • Notwithstanding recent State appropriations and current plans to transfer responsibility for the Canal System to the New York State Power Authority, the Authority’s current revenue structure will likely not be sufficient to cover its ongoing and future capital needs, particularly in light of the Thruway’s age and the extent of deferred projects and maintenance. Currently, the Authority lacks a formal comprehensive long-term strategy to address these shortcomings.

Key Recommendation

  • Develop and implement a long-term comprehensive strategic plan to address funding needs to pay for repairs to and/or replacement of components of the Authority’s aging infrastructure.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

New York State Thruway Authority: Mission Statement and Performance Measures (2013-S-9)
New York State Thruway Authority: Status of the Board-Approved Capital Plan for 2005-2011 (2008-S-48)
New York State Thruway Authority: Proposed Toll Increases for July 2008 Through January 2010 (2008-S-06)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236