ALBANY – There are no specific plans to bring a cashless toll system to the upstate portions of the Thruway even though it now operates at the Tappan Zee Bridge between Rockland and Westchester counties, a Cuomo administration official told lawmakers Wednesday.
“We’ve looked at it. We have no plans at the moment,’’ Bill Finch, the acting executive director of the Thruway Authority, testified during a joint legislative hearing looking into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget plans for the state’s transportation programs.
In cashless tolling, tolls are either deducted from a driver's E-Z Pass or the license plate is photographed and you get a bill in the mail.
Cashless tolling is also being added at New York City bridge and tunnel crossings.
Finch said Thruway plazas in Western New York are areas “that would benefit from cashless tolling.’’ But he said the current plans are not to expand that toll collection system beyond downstate.
The “social benefits are enormous” with cashless tolling, Finch said. They include less wait time at toll booths, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and fewer accidents.
Finch did not say why other areas of Thruway do not have plans to add the cashless tolling systems.
Finch also repeated Cuomo's vow from last year to hold system-wide tolls at their current levels until at least 2020.
Sen. Catharine Young, an Olean Republican and head of the Senate Finance Committee, questioned Finch about the administration’s failure to release a financial plan for the construction of the $4 billion Tappan Zee replacement bridge project.
Finch said that project does have financing – except for what he called a “gap” of $330 million.
Young responded that continued uncertainty over the Tappan Zee bridge financing has raised concerns about a system-wide toll increase prior to 2020 to help fund that downstate bridge project.
“That will not happen,’’ Finch said.
Lawmakers spent considerable time asking Finch and Matthew Driscoll, the state transportation commissioner, about I Love New York tourism signs that popped up in the last year along the Thruway and other state roads. The federal government has said the signs are out of compliance with nationwide highway sign rules. The blue signs advertise tourism opportunities in the state and placement of a website for motorists to get more information.
In all, the two Cuomo administration transportation officials said, the state spent $8.1 million – or $15,000 apiece – for the 540 signs scattered around the state. Some of the signs were made by a private company in Arkansas.