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EZ PASS LANES COULD BECOME EZER TO USE

Whether the Williamsville toll barrier stays where it is -- or is moved -- the Thruway Authority has plans to zip the traffic along: The EZ Pass lane will be updated, allowing motorists to drive through at more than 20 mph. Currently, the EZ pass lane is set up for 5 mph.

"We want a higher speed EZ Pass lane. We want it to go 20 miles or faster," said Thruway Authority spokesman Terry O'Brien.

The higher speed, he said, allows cars to be processed much more quickly through the toll barrier. Even at five mph, three times as many cars can be processed, O'Brien said.

The authority will discuss its plans for the Williamsville toll barrier at a meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Corfu Fire Hall, 168 Main St. (Route 33), Corfu.

The authority will discuss alternative plans for the toll barrier, which, officials said, has become too congested, particularly in an area that has become more built-up in recent years.

The existing toll barrier is between Exits 49 and 50 near the Wehrle Drive overpass.

The authority is considering either upgrading that facility or moving it. The two possible sites identified for moving the toll barrier are at Milepost 404 and 405, near Newstead and Pembroke, or Milepost 408-409 near Alden.

A third option is to leave the existing toll as it is, with no improvement, but that option has little support.

Further details on the alternatives will be discussed at Wednesday's meeting.

There is no timetable yet for when the decision will be made, or when work could start.

But when it does, the state is looking to include the higher EZ Pass lane, O'Brien said.

EZ pass lanes allow people with prepaid passes to drive through the toll plaza without stopping. Their EZ passes are displayed on windshields and are picked up electronically as motorists travel through the toll barrier.

Under the existing system, EZ Pass lane is limited to 5 mph because the toll booths are attached to the manned booth.

To ensure safety when the toll booth attendants cross lanes, the speed has to be kept low, O'Brien said.

Higher speed EZ Pass lane requires a separate stand-alone lane to ensure the safety of toll attendants in the manned booths, O'Brien said.

He said the state is currently operating a pilot higher speed EZ Pass lane downstate. That lane is operating at 20 miles per hour.

O'Brien said the state is considering a higher speed limit for the upgraded or relocated Williamsville toll booth EZ Pass lane, but no decision on the exact speed has been made.

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