WILLIAMSVILLE, NY - Governor Cuomo was in town Thursday, breaking down several initiatives to make local governments more efficient.
Specifically, he said he has included in his budget, the power for county executives to ask for financial plans from municipalities to find financial savings.
But, we also wanted to ask him about bringing cashless tolls to Western New York to ease traffic congestion. A few places that really want to see this happen are Williamsville, Amherst and Clarence, because of the congestion from the Williamsville toll.
Cashless tolls could go a long way in addressing traffic congestion, especially along Main Street in Williamsville. Cashless tolls can already be seen in parts downstate, and Governor Cuomo says that cashless tolls will be coming to the Thruway and that it will be phased in.
The governor gave no timeline for that could happen.
The problems with traffic on Main Street in Williamsville are well known.
"It's extremely stop and go, sometimes, pulling out of the plazas can be also dangerous, people try to beat the lights," said Cassie Hodge of Clarence.
The owner of Parlour hair salon on Main Street says she's experienced two close calls.
"The building has been hit twice since I've been here, just by too much traffic people drive too fast," said Rebecca Loughran.
The Village of Williamsville has done traffic studies showing that moving the Williamsville toll barrier or bringing cashless tolls here would ease congestion. Moving the tolls was taken off the table several years ago.
Other changes have occurred, like adding two 20 mile an hour lanes to the toll plaza and adding an extra on ramp lane from the 290 to the 90.
"That got traffic moving, it's not moving as fluidly as everyone would like to see but it certainly has made an impact," said Williamsville mayor Brian Kulpa.
So, attention has turned to cashless tolls, they've been put on the Tappen Zee Bridge and other areas downstate.
REPORTER: Out here in Western New York that's something that a lot people would like to see why is that not the case?
"Long term it's efficient, the initial cost is significant, what you have to do is design all those toll plazas they have to come down," Cuomo said.
The governor cites high cost for cameras, equipment, and license readers.
"And we will bring it to the Thruway," he said.
REPORTER: Across the entire Thruway, up to Western New York?
"We will," he said, "we'll phase it in, but we'll phase it in a way that we can afford."
REPORTER: When could that happen?
"That's what they're working on now," Cuomo said.
Cassie Hodge isn't hopeful: "I think it just is what it is I feel like a helpless citizen, I don't think that there's much hope for getting things changed around here."
Congressman Brian Higgins has pushed a plan that would change the tolls on Grand Island, Lackawanna and Williamsville to what's called "open road tolling." It essentially makes every lane a high-speed E-Z pass lane, letting people get through faster and cutting down on air pollution from idling cars.
But, this is still just a proposal, so there's no solid plan or timeline for actually changing the toll plazas.
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