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A LITTLE HELP AT THE TOLL BOOTH

The Thruway Authority's desire to speed things up in the E-ZPass lane is not a bad idea.

The authority wants to increase the speed to 20 miles per hour or faster. Traffic congestion would be eased and so would the amount of emissions from vehicles that have to slow to a crawl when passing through one of these lanes at 5 mph.

But even at this lower speed, being able to drive through the E-ZPass lane without stopping helps relieve traffic congestion by processing more than 1,000 vehicles per hour, or about three times that of a staffed toll booth lane, according to the authority.

Higher-speed E-ZPass lanes are already installed at the New Rochelle toll plaza on I-95 and can process 300 to 400 more vehicles per lane during peak travel times than regular E-ZPass lanes at 5 mph.

More than 730,000 E-ZPass tags are in use along the 641-mile Thruway, and more than 2.7 million tags are in use in New York State. Nearly 45 percent of all toll transactions on the Thruway are conducted using E-ZPass.

Even more drivers would use E-ZPass at higher-speed lanes, said Thruway Authority spokesman Terry O'Brien.

Increasing the speed through E-ZPass lanes is just one option for reducing congestion. The authority is considering moving or upgrading the toll barrier between Exits 49 and 50 near the Wehrle Drive overpass. Two possible sites for a new toll barrier are at milepost 404 and 405, near Newstead and Pembroke, or milepost 408-409 near Alden.

Building a new toll barrier would be extremely costly - about $40 million. Of that amount, $20 million would be federally funded, $6 million would come from the Thruway Authority and $14 million would be state-funded.

It just makes sense that if the authority decides to build a new toll barrier or renovate the existing one that it uses a higher-speed E-ZPass lane. Traffic congestion would be eased and so would the environmental impact from vehicle emissions. Not that we want people to get carried away - 20 mph or more doesn't mean 100 mph.

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