Two-year journey to cashless tolls to come to fruition Thursday night for Grand Island

Posted at 6:34 AM, Mar 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-29 23:24:31-04

Thursday is the last day drivers will pay cash at a toll booth to drive onto Grand Island. 

The tolls go cashless at midnight Thursday night, and the goal is to cut back on any traffic issues with the initial switchover. 7 Eyewitness News caught up with drivers like Ann Scott, who say they're excited for the change.

"It's going to help the commute be a lot faster. I'm hopeful," she says. "I go through the tolls about four times a day."

The state estimates going cashless will help regular commuters save about 200 minutes every year. Meanwhile, the employees who work at the toll plaza have been offered other jobs within the Thruway Authority.

The move to go cashless has been more than two years in the making. Grand Island's Town Supervisor, Nathan McMurray, has been pushing for this since he took office.

He announced the results of a survey back in March 2016, in which most people said they wanted the tolls to be removed altogether. And by spring 2017, the plan to get rid of the toll plaza had the support of both New York state lawmakers and local business owners.

In June of last year, McMurray's office released a viral video, urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to push the project through. His request was heard, and in August, Cuomo announced that the cashless tolls would be up and running by February or March of 2018.

Construction began its first phase in October, and the new sensors were installed in February. 

While Supervisor McMurray expects some growing pains initially, he's hopeful the new tolls will have a positive impact on Western New York and beyond.

"There's going to be problems, there's going to be hiccups as we implement this new technology," McMurray tells 7 Eyewitness News. "But the status quo wasn't good enough. There was too much wasted time, too much pollution, too much frustration. To have some progress and have a change is a great thing for Western New York."

The Thruway Authority plans to make the entire Thruway cashless by 2020.