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Campaign to eliminate I-190 Grand Island, NY tolls

Buffalo businessman and developer Carl Paladino is up to something again.

Paladino, who led a successful drive last year to remove toll barriers on the I-190 (Niagara Thruway) section of the New York State Thruway, has set forth on a new cause, ending the collection of the Grand Island bridge tolls. The Grand Island Bridges carry Interstate 190 and NY 324 across the eastern channel of the Niagara River between Tonawanda and Niagara Falls, and there are no other bridges that connect Grand Island to the rest of the world.

In a letter to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer this week, Paladino laid out his argument against the levy of bridge tolls in both financial and moral terms. While the letter does not mention the course of legal action, Paladino is hoping Spitzer will do the right thing and continue to tear down the Berlin Wall against Buffalo-area commuters. Paladino's reasoning: The Thruway Authority collected $20.6 million in toll revenue from the Grand Island bridges last year, but spent only $10.6 million on the bridges’ routine maintenance. Currently, the state charges a 75 cent toll for passenger vehicles to cross the bridge, and less money for Grand Island residents and commuters who use E-ZPass. According to the New York Thruway website, the deep discount equals out to be 25 cents for commuters and 9 cents for residents. These tolls are only charged for those people who are driving to Grand Island.

Currently, there are three sets of bridges that charge tolls on the Thruway. They are the Grand Island Bridges, the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Castleton-on-Hudson Bridge. The Castleton Bridge has a toll that is 75 cents, and because it is part of the ticket system, is charged only when exiting the Thruway mainline. Paladino's argument is that the charge to the Grand Island bridges is unfair, since in 2005, the toll went up from 50 cents to 75 cents a trip (a 50% increase), while the Tappan Zee Bridge toll went up from $3 to $4, which is a 25% increase.

Additionally, according to the Buffalo News, the Grand Island bridges are slated for an estimated $500 million replacement. Tolls throughout the Thruway system would finance this. Which means if I use the Thruway to go from Albany to Newburgh, I am helping pay for any repairs done on Grand Island, or Syracuse, or any location along the Thruway of your choice.

My opinion, keep the tolls in place because the Grand Island Bridge are used for long distance travel and trucks going between New York and Ontario. This long distance travel should be subject to helping finance the cost of the tolls on the Thruway. However, if a compromise must be made, then it would be good to drop the tolls for Grand Island commuters and residents with E-ZPass. These people already pay a reduced fare to cross the bridges, since it is their only way on and off the island by car. I am not sure how much of a difference this makes as far as toll revenue is concerned, but my impression is that the Grand Island bridges are part of a more long distance corridor.

http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/buffaloerie/story/79186.html - Buffalo News

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