Thruway begins cashless tolling

Mark Gutman/Daily NewsToll booths,such as these shown at the Exit 48 Thruway interchange in Batavia, will become a thing of the past. Cashless tolling is going into effect on the New York State Thruway overnight between Friday and Saturday.

ALBANY — Cashless tolling on the Thruway is here, and more than a month ahead of schedule.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday afternoon the transition from toll booths to cashless tolling will go live overnight between today and Saturday.

The change will go into effect simultaneously at all 58 tolling locations along the 450 miles of the Thruway.

Under the $355 million project, steel electronic gantries with cameras were installed at all toll plazas and over the Thruway.

Drivers will pass beneath the electronic gantries, where their E-ZPass tags will be scanned. Drivers without E-ZPass will have their license plates photographed, and the vehicle’s registered owner will receive a bill in the mail.

The switch to cashless tolling is expected to ease traffic congestion at toll plazas and reduce vehicle idling as drivers wait in line at the toll booths, according to the governor’s office.

“The completion of this exciting new project will help Thruway travelers save time, as well as reduce traffic, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality all along the system,” Cuomo said in a statement Thursday. “Getting this cashless tolling system done and getting it done early shows that — even in these trying times — New York will never stop innovating and never stop building for its future.”

Toll booths will be removed at a later, unspecified date.

The change does not affect the Rip Van Winkle Bridge or the other four bridges operated by the state Bridge Authority, spokesman Christopher Steber said Thursday.

“We still have full-service lanes,” Steber said. “We do encourage everyone to make the switch to E-ZPass, especially with cashless tolling on the Thruway. There are also the savings drivers get with E-ZPass and the various plans we offer to save money when people are paying their tolls.”

The Bridge Authority plans to transition to cashless tolling at an undetermined future date.

Cashless tolling has become more commonplace, Steber said.

“That is the general trend in the toll industry, so we are looking at it for the future, but there is no date set to make the change,” Steber said of the Bridge Authority.

With the switch to cashless tolling on the Thruway, cash payments will no longer be accepted at toll booths and printed toll tickets will not be handed out, according to the governor’s office.

To aid in the transition, E-ZPass has released a new mobile app, TollsNY, aimed at helping drivers manage their E-ZPass accounts.

“Cashless tolling is already improving traffic flow, allowing motorists to get to their destinations easier and quicker without having to stop to pay a toll,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “Less idling also complements our clean energy goals, reducing pollution for a cleaner and greener environment.

The tolling structure will not change and drivers will continue to pay tolls based on distance and where they enter and leave the Thruway.

“The conversion to cashless tolling is one of the largest projects in the Thruway’s 66-year history,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said. “This unprecedented achievement is a significant milestone that will modernize the Thruway system for millions of drivers and ushers in a new era for toll collection that will benefit generations to come.”

Tolls have been collected on the Thruway since June 1954, with more than 12,000 toll collectors working over the past 66 years.

E-ZPass units are sold at 900 retail locations across the state, including participating grocery and convenience stores, or can be ordered online at E-ZPassNY.com or by calling 800-333-TOLL (8655). E-ZPass is also sold at state Department of Motor Vehicles and other government offices.

E-ZPass is used on tolled roads, tunnels and bridges in 17 states, as far north as Maine, extending south to Florida and west to Illinois, according to the company’s website. E-ZPass tags purchased in New York will work in all states that use the system.

In the Northeast, the only states that do not utilize E-ZPass are Vermont and Connecticut.

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