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Editorial: Thruway Authority needs to get moving on cashless tolls for the entire highway

Enough talking and wondering and theorizing. No more delays. It’s time to act – long past time, in fact.

The New York State Thruway Authority, in conjunction with the state and federal governments, needs to produce a plan with a deadline to implement cashless tolling along the entire 570-mile highway. If New York really has to have a Thruway Authority, which seems dubious, then it at least needs to stay current.

The issue came front and center this week after a press conference by a bipartisan gaggle of public officials, including Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst; and Assemblyman Raymond W. Walter, R-Amherst. Remarking on the implementation of high-speed, cashless tolling downstate and plans to bring the more modern system to the Grand Island bridges, those officials, along with the mayor of Williamsville, pushed the Thruway Authority to get busy instead of making excuses.

It will be complex work, but that’s a condition, not an excuse. To make it work, the entire Thruway has to come online at once. That means the electronic readers along the highway need to be in place and working before any of the tollbooths can come down.

So plan for it. Learn from the experience of other states. Make decisions. Move.

Indeed, if the authority hasn’t already been working toward this goal, then its members have made the case for their removal. The job is about more than maintaining roads and collecting money.
One alleged holdup cited is the fate of tollbooth attendants who, in a bow to the 20th century, still collect money along the highway. It would be best if the authority or state can find other employment for those people. That’s the right thing to do, but it can’t be a condition of moving ahead. Changing technology has put millions of Americans out of work in recent years. New York can’t remain a backward state for that reason.

Higgins believes the job can be done in less than 24 months and said he is open to seeking even more federal money than the authority already receives to help fund what will be an expensive improvement. Whatever the timeline, it needs to happen. The change will move traffic more smoothly, reduce the pollution caused by millions of idling vehicles and, ultimately, lower the costs of managing the highway.

Get busy.

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