Grand Island Tolls Barriers Now, Williamsville Next?

Williamsville Mayor Sees Change in the Wind

Dave Debo
August 24, 2017 - 6:26 am

WKBW photo


(WBEN) For Williamsville Mayor Brian Kulpa, the pending switch to all electronic toll collection on Grand Island is a breath of fresh air.

" I can walk outside early morning when the Thruway has some backups on it, close my eyes, take a deep whiff and get immediately transported to New York City," Kulpa says. 

Kulpa's home is on a side street just a block or two off Main in the center of the village, and he says on certain summer days, when the humidity is high,  the diesel fumes from delays at the Williamsville toll barrier easily reach his door some 4,000 feet away from the center of the village.

But he says the Grand Island decision could eventually bring winds of change to his doorstep.

"Grand Island was a great starting point because it involved just one toll. It didn't involve a hierarchy from Williamsville to Rochester to Syracuse," Kulpa said. 

While no specific plans have been announced, he envisions Grand Island giving the state the experience and expertise it would take to eventually implement a "drive now, pay later" system on the entire length of the Thruway

 Kulpa and others have led petition drives and lobbied to have the Williamsville Toll barrier moved further east ultimately replaced with the kind of cashless system that was unveiled on Grand Island this week. 

 Gov. Cuomo was on Grand Island on Tuesday to announce that the toll booths at the Grand Island bridges will be removed and replaced with a high-speed cashless toll system.    Motorists with E-ZPass will see the charges on their Thruway account, while drivers without E-Zpass will have their license plates scanned by cameras and be sent a bill in the mail.

"We understand that the idea of getting rid of the tolls all together is probably something we are going to see right away. We are hoping for cashless on the mainline. We understand that to do that in Wiliamsville, you have to change out the entire mainline (Thruway), but now's the time right? You have to start doing that." 

He has also been pushing for a new Youngs Road interchange onto the Thruway as a way to ease congestion in the village, and divert commuter traffic from the areas where they would prefer people drive slowly and shop.  Kulpa adds that the work on that is something he wants, but he envisions cashless tolls coming sooner.


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