GRAND ISLAND, NY - The New York State Thruway Authority announced Wednesday that cashless tolling on Grand Island will be operational the night of Thursday, March 29.
For months, there has been construction near the North Grand Island Bridge on the 190 southbound and on the 190 northbound near the South Grand Island Bridge. The actual gantries, which drivers will go under to pay their toll, are being built.
Once the system becomes operational, according to the Thruway Authority, drivers for a brief period of time will go through the old toll plazas, which will not be operational and then go through the new tolls.
If you don't have E-Z Pass, you can pay your bill on the Tolls By Mail section of the E-Z Pass website, or you'll get a $1 bill in the mail after 30 days. Eventually, those barriers will be removed.
"The state of the art technology will ease congestion and help the environment by reducing idling and we're proud to share the Governor's vision of a modern improved super highway for our future," said Matthew Driscoll, the acting executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority.
This is a project that will impact a lot of drivers.
The Thruway says in 2017, 23 million vehicles went through the Grand Island barriers -- that's about 65,000 drivers everyday.
Our news partners at The Journal News have reported on hundreds of drivers who have used the Mario Cuomo Bridge downstate and have gotten bills sent to them late, with late fees.
"Some of the drivers have experienced really terrible nightmares," said Frank Esposito of The Journal News, "really the system overall has been having problems across the country not just on our bridge as well California, Florida, and Texas."
A company called Conduent which handles billing and customer service for those systems will also handle billing and any customer complaints here.
REPORTER: How do you assure that type of stuff does not happen here on Grand Island?
"So again the additions that we've made to our website the marketing notifications, signage here one of the complaints that we've received is I didn't see the sign," Driscoll said.
REPORTER: Has customer service been addressed and how will customer service work efficiently here?
"Right great question yes I would agree the customer service needed improvements I personally visited the facility," Driscoll said.
The Thruway's acting director says he visited Conduent's office and says the company is making improvements, by hiring more people. Beginning Wednesday -- the Thruway Authority is airing ads with Bills legend Thurman Thomas, informing Western New Yorkers about cashless tolls coming to the island.
REPORTER: How much is Thurman Thomas being paid to be a spokesperson for the Thruway Authority?
"I don't have that information," Driscoll said.
When 2 On Your Side called Thomas, he said he did the commercial for free.
Thruway Authority says that toll collectors here will be reassigned, and layoffs are expected down the road, it's unclear exactly when.
Grand Island is getting cashless tolling out here first because it's on a different system than the rest of the Thruway. There's no timetable for when Williamsville and Lackawanna will get cashless tolls, but Governor Cuomo has said the entire Thruway will be cashless by 2020.