GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. – It’s almost that time of year when tourists come pouring into Niagara Falls, and that means only one thing for Western New Yorkers: Grand Island Bridge traffic. A 30-minute trip to Buffalo turns into 45 minutes, waiting in standstill traffic on the way home from a long day at work, and five lanes of cars merging into only two after the toll booths. However, this year might be a little different come March.
In October, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that construction will begin to convert the Grand Island Bridge toll booths to a cashless tolling system. What exactly does that mean for travelers across Western New York? First, they can say goodbye to slowing down for tolls because the cashless toll technology has overhead sensors that capture images of the license plate and E-ZPass of each vehicle that passes under them. For those with an E-ZPass, that will be the only significant change they see; however, for those who don’t they should make sure their address is up to date with the Post Office because they’ll now be receiving bills by mail. The New York State Thruway Authority is also offering a 5 percent discount on all tolls when travelers purchase an E-ZPass to promote the easy-to-use service.
When construction is complete in March, the Grand Island Bridges will be the second toll location on the 570-mile stretch of New York State Thruway to convert to a much-needed cashless tolling method.
“By removing toll booths at the Grand Island crossings, we are eliminating an obstacle that has cost Western New Yorkers time and money, impacted potential tourism opportunities and helped slow growth for the entire area,” said Cuomo.
In 2016, roughly 23.7 million vehicles traveled over the Grand Island Bridges, which averages out to nearly 65,000 per day. With such a high volume of travelers, Grand Island has seen severe congestion, air pollution, and an unfortunate number of accidents.
When all is said and done, this project is expected to save drivers nearly 200 minutes per year in travel time, and a few headaches along the way.
Feature image courtesy of amandabanana87 – attribution 2.0 generic (CC by 2.0)