Change is hours away at the Grand Island Tolls. After years of complaints about lengthy traffic tie ups and pollution from idling vehicles, the old toll booths will soon be a thing of the past.
Starting with Friday morning's commute, the roughly 65,000 motorists who travel the Grand Island Bridges each day will no longer have to stop and pay a toll.
"It sure was a long day in the making," said Brian Michel. He led the grassroots effort that got Albany to finally remove the Grand Island Toll Barriers. They're being replaced with technology that reads E-Z Pass tags and license plates. Thruway Authority spokesperson Jonathan Dougherty says, vehicles without E-Z Pass will generate a monthly bill.
"The bill is going to be mailed to the registered owner of the license plates with the DMV. So it's extremely important and we're encouraging all motorists to check their address with the DMV. It's New York state law that you need to update it within 10 days of moving. So to have an updated address with the DMV is critically important for this process. And an updated address is really going to help you avoid fines and late fees and really avoid that bill going to a wrong address," Dougherty said.
With cashless tolling planned for the entire Thruway, by 2020, he encourages all drivers to get E-Z Pass or register for Tolls By Mail.
Grand Island Supervisor, Nate McMurray says, eliminating congestion at the toll barriers will cut pollution and help the economy.
"If you can create greater connectivity between Buffalo and Niagara Falls and the connecting region you'll have a economic boost. You'll have a reason for people to come and enjoy things like Canalside a lot easier. And just for people who live here as well; this will make places like East Aurora far more connected to places like Lewiston. So you can go enjoy both places and see what it's like. And you can go out to Artpark and see a show and not be afraid of the traffic jams," McMurray said.
It will be a few weeks though before drivers can pass through the system at highway speeds. Dougherty says, Thruway crews still have to demolish the toll booths and repave the area. He's urging drivers to exercise caution in the work zone.