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Williamsville Toll Barrier Will Move to Town of Newstead

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A proposal to move the Williamsville tolls east of their present location took a major step forward Thursday. The State Thruway Authority has received federal government approval of its draft environmental impact statement to move the tolls to the Town of Newstead.

It's many years since residents in Williamsville began pushing for removal of the toll barrier near their homes. The average daily traffic passing through the barrier is nine times greater than it was in 1954 when the tolls opened. Congestion is commonplace, especially with the barrier's proximity to the 90-290 interchange.

Thruway Authority Director Michael Fleischer says the barrier will be moved east to a lightly populated area in the Town of Newstead.

"We believe that's the best location due to the minimal impact on local landowners," Fleischer said. "Only five acres would need to be taken. No homes would be taken. The geometrics of the roadway in that area allow us to do highway-speed EZ Pass in a safe, efficient manner."

Highway-speed EZ Pass lanes would be set apart from the toll plaza, allowing drivers to electronically pay their tolls without having to reduce speed.

Fleischer says additional public input will be accepted during the coming months before a final decision is made.

"We're hoping that by the end of this year we will have a final environmental impact statement," Fleischer said. "That will allow us to begin designing the project. We'll begin construction in 2008. Hopefully, we'll have the new operation in place by 2010."

The relocation project will cost $60 to $80 million.