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Cuomo: Cashless tolling to begin at Grand Island bridges

Tue, Aug 22nd 2017 11:00 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces a new cashless tolling system for the Grand Island bridges. (Photo by Larry Austin)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces a new cashless tolling system for the Grand Island bridges. (Photo by Larry Austin)
At a press conference Tuesday morning on Grand Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation Matthew Driscoll announced cashless tolling on the bridges.
The system is the first in upstate New York. It's set to begin in March 2018.
It's estimated drivers will save 200 minutes on a yearly commute. Environmentally, air quality is expected to improve.
Cuomo said, "Your supervisor made a very powerful and intelligent case on how the tollbooths were a negative and how we can turn them into a positive."
"The tollbooths are an obstacle. Period. They're an obstacle to tourism. They're an obstacle to quality of life," he added.
In a press release Tuesday morning, Congressman Brian Higgins wrote, "The people of Grand Island and Western New York spoke up and demanded action on the Grand Island tolls, and we are grateful to the governor for once again listening to the pleas from Western New Yorkers.
"This has been a true bipartisan team effort between several levels of government. Together with New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs, Assemblymember Angelo Morinello and under the passionate and focused leadership of Supervisor Nathan McMurray, we fought for change that will lead to a healthier, more prosperous Grand Island.
"Recognition also goes to citizens like Brian Michel who publicly advocated for change, held community meetings and collected nearly 1,500 signatures in support of toll removal. This genuine collaboration between citizens and various leaders sets an example for progress done right, with the community being the ultimate victor.
"The tolls are a physical barrier choking off economic opportunity for Grand Island businesses, driving up emissions that pollute the air in municipalities that are home to some of this community's greatest natural resources, and creating a daily hassle of backups for residents and all who drive through the town.
"This is another victory for Western New York that many thought wouldn't happen in our lifetime, but one that again demonstrates the great outcomes possible when this community works together and stands up for itself."
"Today is a great moment for all of Western New York," McMurray said at the press conference.
"They happened because people were willing to listen," he added.
Jacobs, in a released statement of his own, wrote, "Since taking office in January, the removal of the Grand Island tolls has been a top priority for me, and I am extremely pleased with today's announcement that cashless tolling will soon be implemented.
"The Grand Island toll plazas have caused environmental harm, created a less safe and longer commute for motorists, and served as an impediment to moving people and goods between Erie and Niagara counties. That is why earlier this year I called on both the Thruway Authority and the governor to bring cashless tolling to the Grand Island bridges, and why I introduced legislation to remove the tollbooths.
"Now that cashless tolling is coming to the Grand Island bridges, I am confident that Grand Island residents and motorists all across Western New York will enjoy a safer and faster commute while we maximize the state's investment in a more accessible new welcome center. The negative impacts of these tolls will soon be a thing of the past."
At the press conference, Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said Western New York has tremendous tourism assets that shouldn't be hindered or blocked by unnecessary obstruction.

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