January 25, 2007
Mr. Rus Thompson
Grand Island, NY 14072
Dear Mr. Thompson:
Thank you for your recent letter regarding Thruway tolls on the Grand Island Bridges.
The Thruway Authority has a responsibility to maintain and operate the Thruway system in a safe and efficient manner for the millions of motorists that use it each year. Simply removing the tolls at the North and South Grand Island Bridges would not eliminate the need to maintain, operate and invest in this section of highway, or the system statewide.
For example, over the next five years, the Authority plans to invest more than $62 million in the Grand island area, in addition to the future rehabilitation or possible replacement of the Grand Island Bridges. The Authority estimates that the replacement of these four bridges alone (two North Grand Island Bridges, two South Grand Island Bridges) would cost approximately $500 million.
That being said, the Authority recognizes the uniqueness of the highway networks in and around the Buffalo/Niagara area, specifically the impact on Grand Island residents and commuters. Prior to the first toll adjustment in approximately 17 years, the Authority adjusted the toll structure accordingly. in fact, for those taking part in the E-Z Pass Grand Island Resident Plan, the 9~ toll did not change, holding residents harmless and has remained the same as when the plan was first established in 1980. Also through E-Z .Pass, Grand Island commuters are offered a monthly minimum usage charge of $5.00 — 20 trips at 25~ per trip vs. the full toll of 75~ per trip.
Taking into account the uniqueness of the area, the Authority is having Vollmer Associates, an engineering firm that specializes in traffic and transportation planning, conduct a study to examine the costs, benefits and impacts of alternatives to the way the Authority currently collects tolls across the Thruway System, including Western New York. The framework for this study is expected to be completed in early 2007.
Should you have additional concerns regarding this matter, please feel free to contact my office at (518) 436-2983.
Betsy L. Graham
Acting Director of Public Affairs
New York State Thruway Authority