Officials from the Town of Clarence on Wednesday joined the ranks of local politicians demanding that the congestion-plagued Williamsville toll barrier be moved farther east along the Thruway.
At a Town Board meeting Wednesday night, Councilman Bernard Kolber presented a resolution calling on the Thruway Authority to drop $14 million in planned improvements to the existing toll barrier and instead shift the toll plaza east of Transit Road.
The proposed upgrades would cut down on toll-induced delays, possibly by adding 35-mph E-ZPass lanes, Thruway officials said when the project was first announced in April.
The revamped toll barrier would not feature a true high-speed toll area allowing vehicles to pass through at highway speeds, however.
Those opposing the plan say delays caused by the Williamsville toll barrier force motorists into nearby communities in search of alternative routes.
In his resolution, Kolber elaborated on how the current toll arrangement is bad for Clarence and surrounding suburbs, calling it a “commuter tax” to residents of the eastern Buffalo suburbs.
“The present location of the Williamsville toll barrier hinders economic activity, wastes travelers’ time, wastes fuel, adds to traffic congestion on adjacent roads, decreases efficiency of travel, contributes to air pollution and in general detracts from the quality of life of suburban residents,” Kolber said, arguing that the Thruway Authority’s proposed changes are inadequate to solve those issues.
Investing millions in a flawed tollbooth amounted to a waste of taxpayer money, Kolber added.
The resolution does not include a specific recommendation for where the toll barrier should be located.
Thruway authorities considered alternative locations as far east as Pembroke before settling on the proposed improvements.
Kolber’s resolution passed by a 3-1 vote and will be sent to local, state and Thruway officials. The one board member who opposed the resolution cast the Williamsville toll barrier in a markedly different light.
“That toll way entrance is Clarence’s golden goose,” said Town Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr., explaining that motorists have easier access to the heart of Clarence’s business district on Transit Road as a result of the current Thruway arrangement.Hartzell said 35 percent of Clarence’s commercial income is generated on Transit Road. Absent the Williamsville toll barrier and nearby Transit Road exit, he warned, “Transit Road would just dry up.”
In contrast to those who view the toll as amounting to an unfair tax to motorists, Hartzell argued that it makes sense for those who use the Thruway to pay for its upkeep.
Construction on the toll plaza upgrades is scheduled to start next year, once Thruway officials have finalized the proposed changes.