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Thruway Authority responds to Islander's concerns

Sat, Jun 1st 2019 07:00 am

An Island resident received some answers to questions he asked about the new cashless tolling system established at the Grand Island Bridges.

During a cashless tolling customer outreach event held May 13 at the Western New York Welcome Center in Grand Island (see the May 17 Island Dispatch), during which New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said that the new cashless tolling system at the Grand Island Bridges has been “very successful,” Islander Glenn Bobeck discussed the system with Jennifer Givner, director of media relations and communications for the New York State Thruway Authority, who agreed to respond to Bobeck’s questions in writing. Below are Bobeck’s questions and the Authority’s responses.

1. Has or will an audit be done to ensure that any overcharges made to residents or others will be refunded? Or are folks required to review all bills regularly to ensure that charges were proper and affirmatively take steps to correct?

“If a condition is identified where a customer is known by the Authority to be overcharged, we will contact the customer directly. Just like any other bill you receive, whether it’s our mobile phone bill or credit card bill, we encourage customers to closely review the charges and to contact us immediately if they have any questions.”

2. Are Canadians being charged and billed for tolls? My understanding is that address information to bill Canadians has not been provided. Thus, there is no system for bills to be sent to Canadians traveling over the bridge. Can you advise as to how Canadians are being treated?

“All motorists traveling through a Thruway tolling facility are expected to pay their tolls.

“Canadian citizens, similar to other customers who do not have E-ZPass, have multiple options to pay their tolls. They can view their trip on the tollsbymailny.com website and create an account to pay for future trips as well. They can pay per trip online at tollsbymailny.com; call our toll free number and pay over the phone or they can mail in their payment.

3. Why are tolls necessary to cross the GI bridges? Again my understanding is that these tolls were not going to continue forever. What is the justification?

“Toll revenue is continually reinvested into the Thruway’s 570-mile system. Constant evaluation and investment is required to maintain a safe super highway. Toll revenue is used for a variety of functions including snowplow operations, seasonal maintenance and our expansive capital program to replace aging infrastructure.

“Specifically, over the last five years, the Thruway Authority has reinvested $42.3 million in projects on Grand Island alone. This includes the Welcome Center, which continues to attract thousands of visitors each month and cashless tolling. Over the next five years, the Thruway’s capital program calls for more than $80 million in projects on Grand Island.”

4. Anecdotally I have heard that folks avoid driving into Grand Island because of real or perceived issues related to the tolls or cash less tolls. This affects the community and businesses. How can this be addressed?

“More than 24 million transactions have been processed since cashless tolling went live in March 2018. This substantial volume demonstrates a successful system. A small portion of customers have encountered problems with billing mainly because they did not receive a toll bill or simply did not pay it. These issues are mostly attributed to not changing their address with NYS DMV when they moved or simply ignoring tolls bills. We are committed to working with our customers and to educate them about the billing process as we continue the switch to cashless tolling system-wide by the end of 2020.”

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