WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Village of Williamsville has been fighting for decades to have the Thruway toll barrier moved east, but it appears those plans are going nowhere.
The Thruway Authority tells News 4 it's leaning toward making improvements to the Williamsville tolls to reduce congestion. Elected officials in the village, who have been fighting for this move since the 1990s, say that's news to them.
The big concern from Williamsville's perspective is traffic overflow onto Main Street. Drivers who want to avoid backups at the tolls during rush hour will exit the Thruway, and use Main Street as a cut-around. That has turned a quaint village street almost into a highway of its own.
Donna Luh, the Vice-Chair of the Thruway Authority Board, tells News 4 instead of moving the tolls further east, the board is looking at increasing the speed of the EZ Pass lanes to perhaps 30- or 35-MPH, and converting to electronic toll barriers, instead of having them manned by state workers.
Already, the Thruway Authority is experimenting with electronic tolls downstate, in Yonkers.
Luh said, "Due to the fact that eventually, all electronic toll collection will be implemented throughout the state, it just seemed a high cost to proceed with it."
"To go ahead and do that project here, of relocating, would be a large, large sum of money. So it just doesn't seem practical to do that."
Williamsville leaders want to get rid of all the excess traffic, and make Main Street more pedestrian friendly.
Williamsville Mayor Brian Kulpa said, "We need volume reductions. There's another caveat, which is, I really need cars to stop idling in the backyards of all our residents, spewing toxic chemicals into the air."
"Lots of heavy vehicles. It's just not a nice environment. It's not a village, friendly, pedestrian environment that you would expect out of Main Street, Williamsville."
Luh says the Thruway Authority doesn't have a definitive timeline for a changeover to electronic tolls in Williamsville. The mayor says whatever the solution, it must reduce traffic on Main Street and spare drivers the headache of sitting in traffic jams at the tolls.
"What we need to make sure is that, as a region, we're getting what we need. And the regional conversation about backups at the big blue water tower every day and backups at the Grand Island bridge, those are resulting from our current toll plaza issue," Kulpa said.
Amherst Town Councilman Richard Anderson said, "We need traffic relief, here in the Town of Amherst. There are 15,000 people that are held up at the toll barrier every day."
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