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Grand Island: E-ZPass toll glitch a chronic problem, board says

Sat, Feb 9th 2019 07:00 am

By Larry Austin

Island Dispatch Editor

The Grand Island Town Board is stepping up to convey residents’ complaints to state elected officials in Albany regarding frequent overcharges on E-ZPass statements.

Grand Islanders who use E-ZPass to pay their bridge toll have been victims of glitches in the system, “and many of them are being overcharged, and it’s a chronic problem that’s existed since April when the system went live,” said Councilman Mike Madigan during Monday’s Grand Island Town Board work session meeting.

Island drivers who normally pay 9 cents to cross the Island bridges have found charges of $2 or more on their E-ZPass statements.

Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray said he is in discussions with the New York State Thruway Authority on the issue. “We hope to have an update soon,” he said during the regular board meeting Monday.

“This is not a new issue,” said Glenn Bobeck of Fareway Lane during the public comment portion of the regular meeting. Noting that many residents have found overcharges on their E-ZPass statements, Bobeck said he reviewed his own statements and “in my case I had $4 overcharges that I very well could have ignored. I spent a half hour trying to resolve that” on the telephone with E-ZPass customer service.

Bobeck said he was confident that, if an audit was done, the total of erroneous overcharges would come to an extraordinary amount of dollars.

“My issue is I’m fighting for $4,” Bobeck said. “I could have very well decided not to spend a half hour on a Saturday to save $4. I am confident that there are many, many people on Grand Island who have chosen to ignore this issue.”

(See the Island Dispatch for columns by McMurray and Bobeck on the E-ZPass situation.)

Councilwoman Jennifer Baney said state representatives are aware of the problem and “are as concerned as we are.”

A meeting in Albany on the matter is scheduled for later in the month.

“We should let them have that meeting and support them, and then if we’re not getting the results, talk to them,” Baney said. She reminded that representatives of State Sen. Chris Jacobs and Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, who represent the Island in Albany, hold regular officer hours on the Island.

“We need a meeting here on Grand Island,” Madigan said.

Deputy Supervisor Jim Sharpe said the problems with E-ZPass predate cashless tolling.

“For the last three years, we have been getting issues for E-ZPass,” he said.

E-ZPass’ answer to inquiries from the town has been to tell residents to call them directly. Complaints should go to the state representatives, Sharpe said, because they have a process is in place to deal with the problems.

As the temperature of the discussion in the work session meeting rose, McMurray told the board the way to work through the problem “is through collaboration and bipartisanship and discussion, and we need to figure out a way to improve the system even incrementally. The way not to do it is by attacking people. Figure out a way to resolve it.”

Cashless tolling has taken on a whole new meaning for Canadian drivers. Madigan reported during Monday’s Town Board work session that not only are many E-ZPass users being overcharged, there is no mechanism in place for Canadian drivers without E-ZPass to pay any cashless toll.

Madigan asks why “on a border state” are 20 percent of the vehicles not being charged.

Madigan asked Town Attorney Peter Godfrey if not everyone is being treated equally, does the town have any legal options to request a suspension of the tolls.

“I think that’s the best solution,” Madigan said.

McMurray said, “I’ll tell you what, every time I go to Canada and take a wrong road, I get charged. They figure out a way to charge us. We can figure out a way to charge them, I’m pretty sure.”

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