The State Thruway Authority should waive the 15-cent toll at the Williamsville toll barrier as it seeks its own waiver on the repayment of $6 million in federal aid that it spent on toll relocation studies, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said Tuesday.
“After more than a decade of study and after burning through $6 million in taxpayer support, the authority owes it to the driving public in Western New York to do better than what they have proposed,” Higgins wrote in a letter to Thomas J. Madison Jr., the authority’s executive director. He also delivered his message at a morning news conference near the Thruway.
Higgins said he’s aware the Thruway Authority is preparing to ask the Federal Highway Administration to waive repayment of the money spent on the relocation studies.
“I am not presently convinced that the provision of this relief by the FHWA is necessarily in the public interest,” he wrote.
With toll plaza relocation discussions on hold while a cashless toll system is studied, the authority has proposed $14 million in interim improvements to ease congestion at the Williamsville toll barrier. But that doesn’t address the issue of motorists trying to avoid the toll, Higgins said, which causes excess traffic on suburban streets as drivers take alternate routes.
Higgins proposes eliminating the 15-cent toll on vehicles with E-ZPasses traveling between exits 49/Transit Road and 50/I-290. He noted that tolls are waived along small stretches in other regions of the state, citing the Albany area.
Eliminating the 15-cent toll would not only provide relief to local drivers, Higgins said, it would advance efforts to reduce congestion and make Main Street in Williamsville a more walkable community, which village officials are trying to accomplish.