We have endured decades of talk about moving the Williamsville toll barrier on the Thruway to a spot east of the heavily traveled commuter corridor.
The Thruway Authority promised years ago to move the toll barrier and has spent millions of dollars studying a new location. Now, however, Thruway officials have spun the discussion into the need to create a toll plaza of the future on the same overcrowded spot.
Moving the toll plaza away from a densely populated suburb has long been a goal of regional planners. The small plaza is frequently congested and drivers who don’t want to pay a toll as they head to and from the eastern suburbs are creating even more traffic on Williamsville’s busy Main Street.
The state should be doing what it can to ease transportation problems in a region that needs all the help it can get. Yet now Thruway officials are trying to convince the public that spending $14 million at the existing toll plaza is the way to go. Amherst Council Member Richard “Jay” Anderson probably expressed the thoughts of many people on this prospect when he called it a joke.
What’s not funny is the amount of time and money – $5 million – spent preparing to move the toll barrier with an eye toward freeing up traffic on Main Street in the village. Reconstructing the current plaza might include 35-mph E-ZPass lanes, officials say. That might reduce backups behind the barrier but would do nothing about Main Street’s traffic.
If this weren’t New York State – home of the dragged-out decision-making process – it would be remarkable that the fate of the Williamsville toll plaza is still being discussed. Serious work on moving the plaza goes at least as far back as Gov. George E. Pataki’s administration.
Deadlines came and went and the only thing that has moved is the state cash spent on studies, all of which will have been wasted if the Thruway Authority has its way.
The bigger problem, of course, stems from the Thruway Authority’s stubborn insistence on keeping tolls that were supposed to be lifted in the 1990s, but that’s the topic for another day.
Spending $14 million on a plaza that’s in the wrong place is wasted money and will ensure that the plaza is never moved.
The Thruway Authority should take that $14 million, dust off its plans and relocate the plaza east to a piece of land big enough to accommodate it.