Cashless tolls could be free ride for Canadian drivers

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Cashless tolls seem to be making the driver over the Grand Island bridges so much easier for commuters driving between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, but how much is it costing the New York State Thruway in unpaid tolls?

Hundreds, possibly thousands of Canadian drivers have whizzed through the cashless tolls since they were activated back in March. But some Canadians say they would like to pay the tolls but it is such a complicated process.

Before the Grand Island tolls went cashless, going shopping across the border was so simple for Margaret Hyslop of Niagara Falls, Ontario, “I always had my $1 bill ready, handed it to the person, and off I went.”

But now there are no toll takers, and after seeing some of the horror stories New York drivers are going through, Margaret wants desperately to avoid any kind of run-ins with the law,  or the Ontario Ministry of Transportation–the equivalent of New York’s Department of Motor Vehicels.

“I want to be a law-abiding citizen, I don’t want to get arrested. How do I pay it?  That is what I am asking.”

The bottom line for Canadian drivers, even when the cameras on the Grand Island toll gantries capture their license plate number, the NYS Thruway Authrity has no linkage with Ontario transportation authorites to identify a Canadian car owner, or send them a bill.

Hyslop went online to the Thruway Authority’s toll paying website, Tolls By Mail and tried to match her registration with the license plate caught by the toll cameras, but discovered the drop down menu for looking up her license plate number only listed registrations by state, Canadian provinces were not included.

Officials with the Thruway Authority pointed out, instead of selecting “Pay Toll” at the website, Canadian drivers should click on the “Rental/Loaner Vehicle” tab, which does include selections for provinces.

Because it has been several weeks since Margaret–a retired hospital administrator–went over the Grand Island bridges, she is genuinely afraid she of being stopped either on the American side of the border, or even worse, in Canada.

“I came over the border this morning and I just was looking around for any police that are going to be coming and taking me away because I have not paid.”

Hyslop has signed up for E-ZPass, linked to a credit card account, which she can also use to go back and forth over the international bridges.

A Thruway spokesperson emailed News 4 in a message that said in part,  the authority “continues to work with the Province of Ontario enter into an agreement to add another billing option for Canadian citizens.”

Until then, Canadian drivers going through the cashless tolls on Grand Island would seem to be on an “honor system,” that requires a committment to doing the right thing.

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