New York State’s Governor, Andrew M Cuomo, has announced that high-speed, cashless, open road tolling (ORT) will begin at the Grand Island toll barriers on the I-190 Niagara Thruway in Erie County from March 2018.
The Governor says the transition to cashless tolling will reduce congestion, improve safety and cut air pollution in the area. As part of the transition to a more convenient and cost-effective way to travel New York’s roadways, Cuomo is encouraging all commuters to sign up for an E-ZPass account, to save on tolls across the state, including a 5% discount along the entire 570 miles (917km) of the New York State Thruway network. The Governor has also unveiled the design of the new Western New York Welcome Center, which will be located on Grand Island adjacent to I-190, to support the state’s booming tourism industry.
Two bridges connect the island on the I-190 between Niagara Falls and the town of Tonawanda, providing the main thoroughfare for commuters and visitors between the city of Buffalo and the Falls. In 2016, approximately 23.7 million vehicles passed through the toll barriers, equating to nearly 65,000 vehicles per day. In March next year, Grand Island will become the New York State Thruway Authority’s second all-cashless tolling location, following the implementation of all-electronic tolling (AET) on the Tappan Zee Bridge in 2016.
When ORT begins, the Thruway Authority will remove toll barriers at the North and South Bridges, which will be replaced with gantries carrying RFID transponder readers and ALPR (automatic license plate recognition) cameras. Vehicles with E-ZPass tags are automatically charged, and vehicles without a tag will get a bill mailed to the registered owner. Over the last 10 years, approximately 80% of all accidents within a tenth of a mile of the toll barriers were caused by ‘following too close’ or ‘unsafe speed’. With the implementation of cashless tolling, the Thruway Authority expects accidents within these areas to be reduced. Construction will begin in October, with projected savings for drivers reaching approximately 200 minutes per year when completed.
“With the addition of cashless tolling and a new welcome center, we are not only supporting a growing regional economy, but also raising the profile of tourist attractions in communities across Western New York,” said Cuomo. “By transitioning to cashless tolling, one of the state’s most traveled roads will become safer and less congested, to help meet the needs of 21st century motorists.”