Eliminating bridge tolls brings benefits, problems
Regarding the recent bill to remove the tolls on the Grand Island bridges, this is a two-sided coin.
First the pluses. Removal would increase the property values of the homes on the island, and remove the need for residents to have an account with E-ZPass that can replenish itself as needed but requires a $25 minimum. These tolls are and have been legally questionable from the start. The bigger question is: Why has the north-south expressway, which would alleviate much of the traffic going across the island, never been completed?
Now the minuses. Anyone who has driven this area during rush hour knows that traffic is slowed to a crawl because of the need to merge five lanes into two. Approaching the south bridge, you have the 290 merging with the 190 and at the last minute a River Road on-ramp. At present, the only thing preventing chaos is the presence of the toll booths. The removal of these booths without changing traffic patterns would result in traffic from five lanes having to merge into two lanes at 55 mph within a quarter mile. Since this is a problem at 5 mph when leaving the toll booths, I see problems and a mother lode for lawyers and tow truck operators. Moving the toll booths to the center of the island would not solve this problem.
But for the legislators who worry about lost money from tolls, there is a bright side. They can build bleachers and sell tickets to the daily demolition derby that will surely occur! So before “tearing down these booths,” as the town supervisor cavalierly suggests, I suggest he think about the traffic jams that will occur from the many accidents that are a sure thing. This is not the time for knee-jerk, silly simplistic solutions because officials are playing with people’s lives.