Approximately 65,000 Motorists Who Travel Through Grand Island Barriers Each Day to Benefit from Improved Traffic Flow and Reduced Congestion
New TV Commercial Featuring Bills' Legend Thurman Thomas Encouraging People to Sign Up for E-ZPass Will Begin Airing Today
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced cashless tolling will go live at the Grand Island Toll Barriers on March 29, weather dependent. As of the morning commute on Friday, March 30, the Grand Island toll plazas will no longer accept cash payment. With the conversion to open road, cashless tolling, drivers will no longer have to stop and wait to pay a toll, which is projected to save drivers approximately 200 minutes per year on their commutes.
"Open road, cashless tolling exemplifies New York's commitment to a transportation system for a 21st-century economy," Governor Cuomo said. "By transitioning the Grand Island barriers to cashless tolling we will be saving time and easing congestion, allowing drivers to get where they need to go quicker and more efficiently."
"Like so many fellow Western New Yorkers, I've experienced the frustration of waiting endlessly at tolls, especially during summer months heading to Niagara Falls or Artpark over the Grand Island Bridge," said Lieutenant Governor Hochul. "Finally, those days are over. No longer will harried parents be late for after work soccer games, and truckers won't lose valuable time sitting in traffic. Cashless tolling will improve traffic flow allowing motorists to get to their destinations easier and quicker without having to stop to pay a toll. Less idling will also help to reduce pollution for a cleaner and greener environment."
In August 2017, Governor Cuomo announced open road, cashless tolling would begin at the Grand Island Toll Barriers in March 2018. Since the announcement, crews have installed two overhead gantries on the Niagara Thruway (I-190), one northbound and one southbound, which drivers will pass under to pay their tolls. Work also included the installation of concrete slabs that serve as the driving surface at the cashless tolling locations, as well as two additional secure structures which house equipment to operate the state-of-the-art technology. Overnight testing of the system will take place ahead of the March 29 activation date.
With the implementation of open road tolling, state-of-the-art sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway on structures called "gantries" that read E-ZPass tags and take license plate images, so vehicles no longer have to stop to pay the toll. Vehicles with E-ZPass tags are automatically charged. Non-E-ZPassvehicles have their license plates recorded and a bill is mailed to the registered owner of each vehicle in approximately 30 days. Customers who pay using Tolls ByMail will pay the same toll rate as previously paid by cash customers, and E-ZPass customers with New York accounts will continue to get a five percent discount. The cash rate for the toll will remain $1.
As part of today's announcement, Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll and former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas also unveiled a new commercial featuring the football legend encouraging Western New Yorkers to sign up for E-ZPass, the fastest and most cost-effective way to pay tolls. The commercial will begin airing today in Western New York.
Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, "More than 20 million motorists who travel this vital connector each year will soon reap the benefits of cashless tolling which eases congestion, improves safety, and reduces air pollution. Cashless tolling will improve the travel experience for residents and tourists traveling to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and beyond."
Senator Chris Jacobs said, "This community has fought for a long time for this day to come and I am thrilled that cashless tolling for the Grand Island bridges will be a reality by the end of the month. Cashless tolling will decrease traffic congestion on the bridges, help our environment, and spur economy activity. I thank the Governor for his leadership on this issue."
Assemblymember Angelo Morinello said, "I believe the benefits of this change will be evident almost immediately. It will alleviate the backup at both the north and south bridges so traffic will run more smoothly, it will save time travelling and will help reduce pollution on Grand Island and surrounding areas. I highly recommend everyone who uses the Grand Island Bridges to consider E-ZPass if they do not already participate. We are all very excited to see this program come to fruition in the very near future."
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, "Cashless tolling will add convenience and subtract time from the commutes of thousands of residents and will make travel easier and faster for visitors to Erie County as well. No one wants to sit in traffic any longer than necessary, and now that vehicles no longer have to stop at the tolls this initiative will create a better, quicker driving environment for all."
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "With more than 8 million visitors to the City of Niagara Falls every year, many of them traveling across Grand Island, the transition to cashless tolling will allow for a seamless and more environmentally-friendly travel journey. As we grow closer to the 2018 tourist season I want to commend Governor Cuomo and our partners at the New York State Thruway Authority for an expeditious infrastructure investment that will only continue to enhance the visitor experience for years to come."
Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray said, "Faster, cleaner, better. Grand Island, and all of Western New York, is open for business. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for helping implement this cashless tolling technology. It's an important step for Western New York."
Amherst Town Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa said, "Currently, thousands of commuters from across the Buffalo area prefer Main Street or Sheridan Drive as an alternative to the backups at the Williamsville toll barrier. The Thruway Authority's initiative to bring cashless tolls to WNY by end of 2020 will positively impact the residents of Williamsville, Amherst and Western New York significantly, and decrease the traffic congestion within our town."
The Grand Island Bridges connect Grand Island on the Niagara Thruway (I-190) between Niagara Falls and the Town of Tonawanda. It is a main thoroughfare for commuters and visitors between the City of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. In 2017, approximately 23.5 million vehicles traveled through the Grand Island Toll Barriers, which translates to nearly 65,000 vehicles per day. When cashless tolling goes live, Grand Island will become the New York State Thruway Authority's second cashless tolling location. The first cashless tolling point was implemented on the Tappan Zee Bridge in 2016. Toll collectors currently employed at the two Grand Island toll plazas will be reassigned to other toll plazas in the region.
Once cashless tolling on Grand Island becomes operational, the Thruway Authority will begin removing the toll plazas at the North and South Grand Island Bridges in several phases which will result in altered traffic patterns. For a short period of time, drivers will continue to travel through toll plazas at reduced speeds without stopping until the booths are removed and the road reconfiguration is completed. Drivers are strongly urged to use caution around the toll plazas during this time as it will be an active construction zone. The posted speed limit when traveling through the toll plazas will be 20 MPH. The temporary traffic pattern for the North Grand Island Bridge can be found here. The temporary traffic pattern for the South Grand Island Bridge can be found here.
As part of the transition to a more convenient way to travel New York's roadways, the Thruway Authority is encouraging all motorists to sign up for E-ZPass NY and save on tolls across the state, including a five percent discount along the entire 570-mile New York State Thruway. E-ZPass offers a variety of discount plans and payment options to fit the needs of every motorist including a Grand Island Commuter Plan.
The E-ZPass marketing campaign will launch today featuring former Buffalo Bills Running Back Thurman Thomas and is expected to air on local television and radio stations for the next month.
E-ZPass On-the-Go tags can be purchased at all cash lanes at the Grand Island Toll Plazas, 26 Thruway Service Areas system-wide, and nearly 800 locations across the state including select grocery and convenience stores, and government offices.