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In an effort to help Grand Island draw some of Niagara Falls' tourist traffic, state transit officials Thursday urged businesses to participate in a new program offering Thruway signs that advertise nearby lodging, camping and special attractions.

Meeting with local business owners, Thruway District Director William Leslie said Grand Island could be eligible for four or more such signs. Grand Island currently has no such signs. That, in addition to the presence of a Thruway sign that directs traffic to Niagara Falls, has long angered the town's business community, which feels shortchanged by the state.

A nearly 90-minute meeting in Town Hall, arranged by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, whose district includes Grand Island, was meant to discuss ways the town could take better advantage of the millions of cars that cross the island on the Thruway each year to go to Niagara Falls.

Hoyt said neither Buffalo nor Grand Island has been able to "tap into the unbelievable amount of economic activity" in the Falls. More signs may help, he said.

The Thruway Authority's new sign program is designed to let drivers know about lodging, local attractions and camping sites that are near the Thruway. For an annual charge of $750 per interchange, the Thruway Authority will install one business-logo sign on a panel in each direction of the Thruway and one ramp-logo sign between the toll booth and the end of the interchange ramp.

Also offered in the Thruway Authority program are signs featuring generic symbols that tell drivers when food, lodging or gas are available.

Hoyt said his office, the Chamber of Commerce, Supervisor James Pax and the Town Board will draw up a list of other suggestions for improving signs to send to the Thruway Authority and the state Department of Transportation.

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