WNY lawmakers call on Thruway to give drivers a break


Elected officials from Western New York are calling on leaders in Albany to give drivers, using the new cashless tolls on Grand Island, a break.

State Senators Chris Jacobs and Tim Kennedy were joined by Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray in a call for the New York State Thruway Authority to extend a “toll amnesty” for drivers who have been slammed with huge fees and penalties after using the Grand Island bridges. 

Kennedy said, “It was simply highway robbery.”

While the removal of the old toll barriers has brought a new level of convenience at the bridges, mistakes by drivers and apparent technical errors by the Thruway Authority are turning small tolls into nightmarish bills amounting to hundreds–in some cases, thousands of dollars.

Marcus Kelly, a driver from Buffalo, said he was late paying $8.00 in tolls, and got a bill for $153 due to late fees and penalties, “They threaten to send it to a collection agency or cancel your registration, but they don’t give you any type of dates to work with.”

Sen. Tim Kennedy is calling on the State Thruway Authority to set up an amnesty program, giving drivers a chance to pay the tolls they owe–minus the fees–like the program the Thruway set up earlier this year when the cashless tolls were set up at the new Tappan Zee/Cuomo Bridge near New York City.

“For indivduals to be able to pay their fine without getting hit over the head with these ridiculous and outrageous tolls.’

Kennedy and Sen. Chris Jacobs are also calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the Toll Payers Protection Act which would afford drivers the chance to correct technical mistakes, which Briana Harrington said could cost her more than $200.

“I never got any type of toll bill, nothing. Then I got a letter saying you owe $204 within 15 days or your registration is suspended.”

Sen. Jacobs said, if amnesty is good enough for Downstate drivers, it is good enough for Western New York, “We fought for this technology to make life easier on our residents, not to impose a penalty that could actually cause them not to be able to legally drive their car and get to work.”

Both Jacobs and Kennedy are urging drivers who get  big bills from the Thruway Authority for penalties and fees to contact their offices.

A spokesman for the State Thruway Authority issued a statement saying they are continuing to work with drivers to resolve their toll problems, and urged drivers to contact the Thruway Authority directly at 1-518-471-5300.

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