It’s good that someone is stating the obvious: The plan to upgrade rather than relocate the Williamsville toll barrier makes no sense. It’s a hindrance to motorists and a “commuter tax” on local users.
Town of Clarence Councilman Bernard Kolber offered a resolution last week calling on the Thruway Authority to drop $14 million in planned improvements to the barrier and, instead, move it east of Transit Road.
“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,” he said, arguing that improving the current barrier won’t solve those problems. He’s right.
Kolber notes complaints that westbound motorists trying to avoid the backups at the barrier often exit the Thruway at the Transit Road ramp, causing additional congestion there.
An opponent of moving the barrier, Clarence Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr., calls it the town’s “golden goose,” because of the traffic it drives there. Take away the barrier, he said, and “Transit Road would just dry up.” That seems doubtful, given the number of destinations offering shopping, dining and recreation along the road.
The bottom line is the barrier doesn’t belong in a populated area. It should be moved east – the exact location can be determined later in consultation with residents – but designed to accommodate high-speed traffic. Toll collection systems in other states collect information from cars traveling at normal cruising speeds.
While the Thruway Authority previously examined alternatives for moving the barrier, it decided instead to leave the existing one in place, but with improvements that could include 35-mph E-ZPass lanes. That might be some improvement, but that won’t do much when traffic backs up and motorists trying to get to the E-ZPass lanes are stuck waiting with drivers queued up for the cash lanes. Why should Western New Yorkers settle for that when it is possible to construct a system that allows traffic to keep moving at normal speeds, and relieve congestion in Williamsville and pollution at the same time?
And why, as Kolber asked, should taxpayers be required to shell out $14 million for a deficient plan that doesn’t adequately deal with the problem?
To some extent, this is a question of whose ox is gored. Some residents east of Transit Road object to having the toll barrier moved to their back yards. That’s understandable. But, properly handled, the barrier can be much less intrusive there than it is in Williamsville. It should be moved.