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WBEN Extra: Thruway Tolls & Traffic

 Congressman Brian Higgins call to have the NYS Thruway stop collecting tolls on those traveling only a few miles between the Williamsville Barrier and the Transit Road exit is one of several ideas being put forth to try and ease traffic congestion and toll burdens in the Buffalo area.

In some ways, we have been down this road before.  Buffalo's Early News and WBEN.com take a look at the range of plans
and what each one would mean in different ways in different areas.

WBEN Audio

On The
WBEN Liveline
  Cong. Brian
Higgins (D-Buffalo)

  Williamsville Mayor
Brian Kulpa

Rather than engage in costly relocation, or legal battles, Congressman Brian Higgins on Tuesday proposed having NYS just not collect any tolls on those going only between the Williamsville Toll Barrier and Transit Road.

"The New York State Thruway Authority made decisions a long time ago to put tolls in various sections of the Thruway to generate revenue" Higgins said. "The justification at that time was that we would do that to finance the improvements that needed to be made."

But Higgins says that the Thruway Authority is already collecting enough money in gasoline taxes, and the 15 cent toll has become an inconvenience for too many people.

While many people in the last decade have called for moving the toll barrier, Higgins says he has another idea. "They're not going to pursue the relocation of the toll barrier, so what we're simply asking them to do is to do something on behalf of the commuting public of Western New York, and that is to create a 'Toll Free Zone' between Transit Road and Williamsville, between exits 49 and 50, for commuters here."

His plan would mean that commuters traveling just between exits 49 and 50 would do so for free, instead of being charged to 15 cents that they are currently.

Higgins said a move like this would not be unprecedented. Vehicles in the Albany area which use exit 25A and 24, 25, or 26, are not assessed a toll for their small distance traveled.

He also argues that eliminating the 15 cent toll would help surrounding communities, notably Main Street in Williamsville, become a more walkable community. Higgins says that the Village of Williamsville is trying to create a pedestrian friendly area along Main Street, and the 15 cent toll is putting a knot in those plans.

"Because of trying to avoid the tolls," Higgins said, "There's increased traffic on Main Street in Williamsville, so the elimination of the toll will clear that up as well."

Or  At The Bottom of this Page

About the Thruway, NYS should
Just stop charging tolls between the Williamsville barrier & Transit Rd Exit
( 47% )
Move the barriers further east beyond the Buffalo area commute
( 40% )
Just leave it alone- Not worth the cost of changing
( 13% )

Michael Powers, the attorney hired by Carl Paladino  to fight toll collection at the Breckenridge and Ogden toll barriers on the Niagara section of the Thruway says he has been contacted to engage in another fight:  taking down the Williamsville Toll barrier.

"The toll barrier should definitely not be there for a variety of reasons," Powers says, adding that a fight over the Williamsville barrier- or tolls elsewhere- will be harder than his successful 2007 battle to have the others taken away.

" They are different animals. there was a specific statutes that I found that related specifically to the Ogden and Breckenridge tolls and that's how we were able to bring those down."

In 2007, at Paladino's urging, Powers, a partner at Phillips Lytle LLP in Buffalo,  found a law that said the Niagara Section tolls had to be removed once the bonds on that section of the Thruway were paid off.   Those bonds were paid in the 1990s, he says.

"I'm not aware of a similar law, but we are going to look," he says, adding that there are other arguments to make against the tolls.

"There is always the disparity issue, that there is a burden being placed on certain municipalities and not others.  Is there a rational reason to have toll booths where they are?  There are environmental issues that have been overlooked or neglected. Those are the kinds of issues we have to look at," he says.

Hear More with Powers
On The WBEN Liveline:


"The concerns I have with a multitude of proposals that continue to come forward dealing with the toll barriers is we run the risk of absolutely nothing being done,"

- Amherst  Town Board Member Guy Marlette

After years of fighting to try and move the Thruway toll barriers beyond the immediate Buffalo commute, Amherst Town Board member Guy Marlette (L)  is skeptical of the latest plan to just not charge local commuters. (See above left)

"I think that the toll booth operates inefficiently now," Marlette says." And the long backups that you encounter as you are going onto that barrier are one of the reasons why people initially try to avoid it."

He says any solution  must take a broad approach and include an accounting of the traffic on Main Street in Williamsville, which he thinks many could be using as an alternative to the Thruway, as a way to cut around the tolls.

"I think we need to understand if  all the traffic on Main Street is truly just a result of the toll barrier or if there are other issues that have created traffic on Main Street.,"  Marlette says.

"I think a redesign or moving it is an obvious solution," Marlette says

Marlette also advocates a system that would move traffic faster with more use of the automated EZ-Pass system, and he advocates a re-design of any relocated barrier so as not to just transfer Williamsville's problems to Clarence or Pembroke.

Filed Under :  
Topics : Business_Finance
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Locations : New YorkWestern New YorkWilliamsville
People : Brian Higgins
08/27/2013 12:17PM
Higgins Calls for End of 15 Cent Toll Collection
Would you travel on the Thruway more is the 15 cent toll charge was eliminated?
08/27/2013 12:50PM
eliminate the 15 cent charge
08/27/2013 1:22PM
authority over reach??
How is this the an issue for the Mayor of Buffalo. They don't even know who you are Brian....Good Luck LOL
08/27/2013 3:08PM
What a guy
When I add up, over a one year period, all the taxes, fees and other government schemes to confiscate my money to the tune of about 68% of my income, I really cant get excited about MAYBE getting a 15 cent toll removed. Keep the toll and lose the gas tax. What....no swamp land to sell us?? Just another photo opp.
08/28/2013 2:43AM
Efficiency would be better
Retain the toll, but go to a transponder based system, such as EZ-Pass. The 407-ETR in Toronto area lets you drive onto and off of the toll sections at highway speed. If you don't have a transponder, it snaps a pic of your license plate and mails you a bill. No congestion due to a toll barrier, and a fair way to have people to pay for the roads they use.
08/28/2013 9:27PM
Get rid of the congestion!
It you move the tolls, it would eliminate the congestion across that area during certain times of the day and more importantly during the holiday swings. The toll is a pain in the rear for those unlucky enough to use it on a daily basis. Please move it!
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