Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office on Tuesday released details on the construction schedule for the move to cashless tolling over the Grand Island bridges.
While the tollbooths in the Town of Tonawanda and on the northern end of Grand Island are being removed, the $1 toll motorists pay will remain.
Here's the timetable for the project, which state officials say will be completed by the end of March:
- Underway: Shoulder reconstruction
- Within the next week: Pre-fabricated concrete slabs – which will serve as the driving surface – will start getting installed. Overnight and weekend lane closures will be put into effect over the next two weeks.
- Early next year: Structures holding sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway.
With the tollbooths gone, the daily average of 65,000 motorists will be able to drive at highway speed beneath an overhead structure with scanning equipment. The project will help reduce vehicle emissions by cutting down on the amount of time motorists are idling, supporters say. State officials estimated once the cashless tolling is fully operational, drivers using the bridges will save about 200 minutes per year.
The construction schedule is weather dependent. The cashless tolling locations will be in different spots than the existing toll plazas. Total cost has not been determined, a State Thruway Authority spokesperson said Tuesday, because bids have not yet been taken on the final phases of the project.
In August, Cuomo announced the project – the first of its kind upstate.
Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan D. McMurray said he was excited to see the work to install the gantries beginning this week near the South Grand Island bridge. McMurray, who advocated for the removal of all tolls on the Grand Island bridge, said the cashless tolling system is "not a panacea, but it will be a massive improvement."
McMurray added that the work is expected to create some traffic issues.
"Be careful and patient. This is the first big change in a long time," added McMurray.
A cashless tolling system is in place on the Mario Cuomo Bridge, formerly known as the Tappan Zee, between Rockland and Westchester counties. Similar systems were being installed earlier this year at tunnel crossings and bridges in New York City.
Drivers pay about $23 million a year to pass through the Grand Island bridge tolls. After the change, tolls will be paid either through deductions from a motorist's E-ZPass or having a vehicle's license plate photographed and a bill sent in the mail. The move to cashless tolling will not change the toll discount program for Grand Island residents or commuters, according to state officials.
Oakgrove Construction of Elma is the contractor handling the first phase of work, officials said.
News Staff Reporter Nancy Fischer contributed to this story.