<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>

Grand Island Tolls Should be Eliminated, Too

have to take you in." In Grand Island, if you don't have a dollar for a toll, when you have to go there, they won't let you in.

While Brian Higgins has recently said the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) should waive the 15-cent toll at the Williamsville toll barrier, he did not apparently mention the possible removal of the Grand Island toll booth.

Eliminating the 15-cent Williamsville toll would provide relief to local drivers, Higgins said, and reduce congestion along Main Street in Williamsville.

The Grand Island bridges would provide far more relief to drivers and also reduce congestion. Daily traffic back up is commonplace with traffic sometimes backed up over a mile.

It is estimated that 72,000 vehicles cross the south Grand Island bridges and 51,000 cross the North bridges daily, traffic that reportedly generates more than $18 million in yearly revenue.

Since 1935, commuters have been paying tolls on the Grand Island bridges. In 1950 the NYSTA took over control of the bridges and tolls. In fact, Grand Island had the distinction of being the first tolls on the NYS Thruway.

In 2007, a Buffalo toll barrier was removed thanks in part to a lawsuit brought by Carl Paladino, Joel Giambra and Mike Powers.

There are no toll roads except for the main line Thruway and no toll bridges in Albany, Utica, Schenectady, Syracuse, and Rochester. Western New York has a unique and impoverishing added barrier.

Tolls on the Grand Island bridges help to support the New York State Canal System and toll-free downstate interstate highways and to pay for the staffing and senior executives of the Thruway Authority.

In addition to running the toll road, the Thruway Authority operates the state barge canal system, runs Stewart Airport in Newburgh, and pays for the State Police Thruway Division.

The Grand Island bridges and the Niagara section could be run by the D.O.T. supporters of the toll booth elimination argue. D.O.T. bridges are non-tolled.

In 2003, former Erie County Clerk David J. Swarts led an effort that garnered 20,000 signatures to eliminate the Thruway tolls, including the tolls on Grand Island bridges.

More recently Rus Thompson has collected a reported 6,000 signatures to remove the Grand Island toll barriers.

Meanwhile, for the 20,000 people who live on the Grand Island, the bridge is the only way to get home short of boating or swimming across the Niagara River.

"The ache for home lives in all of us," the poet observed, "The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."

For residents of Grand Island, they must at least question themselves. Have they a dollar to pay the toll to get home?

It is one of the striking ironies, one that borders on the grotesque and cruelly unusual, that the NYSTA requires of the people of Grand Island to be charged to go to their homes.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

SEP 10, 2013