No Accountability and the Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy

The reason why the Thruway Authority will never, ever change the toll plazas in Williamsville and Lackawanna has to do with the fact that western New York is a nonentity. No one from Albany needs to pass through here on their way to Erie, and so it doesn’t really matter all that much whether you’re sitting in unnecessary traffic at Ripley, Lackawanna, or Williamsville on the I-90.

It’s 2013 and completely unacceptable that we haven’t made use of the not-very-advanced technology that is available to permit EZ-Pass holders fly by the toll plaza at highway speeds. No EZ-Pass, you can pay cash at a booth located off the main road, like they do in Florida.

The Thruway Authority is, actually, considering changing over to an all-electronic toll collection system, but only on the busiest part of the road, between Yonkers and Harriman. In other words, on the stretch of road Assembly members and Senators living in the New York City area take to get to work in Albany.

A report in the Clarence Bee (paywall) reveals that a meeting was held last week with local elected officials whereby the Thruway Authority made all the arguments for moving the Williamsville Plaza back east, past the Transit exit, relieving some of the traffic congestion on Main Street in Williamsville and other surface roads. But they refuse to do it.

The Thruway had originally slated $14 million to reconfigure and/or move the tolls, but now they’ve only got $6.5 million on the table. They acknowledged that there was not a lot of space available to reconfigure Williamsville the right way, but they were going to try anyway; they were going to go into it half-assed.

While officials from Williamsville, Lancaster, and Clarence pleaded with the Thruway to consider moving the plaza back to Pembroke, the Thruway Authority simply isn’t going to do it, and is talking about using electronic toll taking in a location that is already a bottleneck.

The Thruway Authority, of course, answers to nobody. If you complain, they don’t lose their contract or franchise to run the road. They run independently from the executive or legislative branches, which answer to the public through periodic elections. It has its own bureaucracy and budget, operating as a quasi-independent state-sanctioned entity, and if you don’t like queueing up at a too-small toll plaza using antiquated technology, well you can just go to hell and sit and like it.

Thruway employees get free EZ-Pass, so they don’t care. The Governor jets in and out of here, so he doesn’t care. Our local Assembly members and Senators are the ones who should be making the most noise about Thruway dysfunction, since they have to use the road to get to work, but instead we have Brian Higgins – a federal representative – calling for at least a toll-free stretch between Transit and Williamsville.

There is no accountability, so there is no motivation or impetus to improve service to Thruway consumers. It is more evidence of the dictatorship of the bureaucracy under which we live in New York.


  • I refuse to drive the Thruway except on the no-toll span between Lackawanna and Williamsville. I’ll spend a little extra gas and a little extra time enjoying US20, US20A, NY 5, NY 33, or whatever other road I need to get to points east or west. Why we need a completely independent governmental body to run a single road is utterly beyond me, and I choose not to play the game.

    • They need the Authority so that the politician(s) have some place to dump the loser nephew of some rich guy that donated money that crooked politician(s) election fund….

  • Damn Kelly—we agree again! What you are experiencing is the beauty of the Authority system in NYS. People who aren’t worth the powder to blow their asses out of cannons, manipulating a system that is not responsible to the citizens or any other Governmental entity.
    Maybe more on the east-West Main line (Albany to Buffalo) than the SW stretch (Buffalo to Erie) at least in tourist season, it would make a lot more sense to have a high speed EZ-Pass system, and reconfigure the tolls off to the side of the road. Plus get the toll the hell off the GI Bridges!
    The West Virginia Turnpike has a good system as well. From VA to Ohio there are 2 or 3 toll booths on the main road, plenty EZ Pass lanes and when you exit, you pay an additional toll for the fraction between your exit and the last main booth. They’re so small that they really don’t need high speed lanes. BTW the main tolls are 2.00 and the exit tolls are 25-45 cents as I remember.
    Actually a shame you still have them, Gov Dewey said once the road was paid, no tolls. But even King of the RINOS Nelson Rockefeller, never met a tax or a fee he didn’t like. Yet the tolls will have been in place for 50 years soon—-EXCELSIOR!

    • All right, time to go see the doctor! 🙂 Seriously, though, while I am definitely liberal, that doesn’t mean I’m in love with everything government does. Governments are run by people, with all the petty stuff that people bring to bear. The existence of the Thruway Authority is mindboggling to me. Turn the road over to the DMV, fire everybody in the Authority, and while we’re at it, let’s update the infrastructure to modern standards!

  • There must be a certain fundamental myopia one becomes afflicted with by virtue of living in the Greater Buffalo area too long.
    You see Allan, the back-ups and delays experienced at places like the toll plazas in Williamsville and Lackawanna have nothing to do with location of these toll plazas. It has everything to do with the total lack of toll plazas in the Metro area.
    You see, somewhere early on political powers, not out of right but of numbers arrainged so that the premier high speed route through NYS, for use by everyone in the state as well as travelers passing through would, all of a sudden in Buffalo be transformed into a free local commuter road.
    Swarms of suburbanite commuters pouring like a legion from hell into and out of the Northtowns via the 290 onto the Thruway and all the loving commuters heading on and off all the other toll-barrier free entrances and exits take what was a high speed route through the state and turn it into a local rush hour nightmare.
    Commuting from Batavia to Henrietta and Rochester?. No main toll barrier. You get off at an exit, center the delays on the exit, not the main-line, and you then pay for every mile you have used this high speed access. The same hold true heading to Albany, Syracuse , Utica, Rome and even Westfield and Eden.
    Sure I know, that would be impossible here. Plenty of room for a Galleria Mall, a Target Plaza or acre upon acre of unoccupied Benderson buildings. But room for an exit ramp and toll booth for those heading into Cheektowaga, or from Cheektowaga to the North towns? Unthinkable.
    After all, as sprawl commuters and shoppers in good standing in the Metro Buffalo area you have an inalienable right to turn the State’s Premier high speed travel route into a local free-bee snail’s crawl, slowing up every single legitimate Thruway traveler so you can have this toll-free-for-you-only minute saver so you can get home in time to eat before the kids soccer practice…or back to the mall before that supply of new Snelly-Belly Bears are gone.

    • I’ve not commuted in the Buffalo Metro since the late 80’s. There WERE toll booths then. And they were a PITA and unjustly taxed local commuters. But there haven’t been any real expansions of the Thruway since God only remembers when—I remember Exit 50 construction in the early 70’s. Driving from Riverside to the old Sheehan hospital I could go down the 190 and get off downtown—TOLL or take military Rd to 198 to 33 and go downtown that way. Both had their drawbacks but the 190 was faster. And working P/T at the Sheraton on Walden (Watching them move the earth to begin building the Galleria) I could go 90/33/198 back to the hood or 90-290 and come in alongside the back of the Chevy plant.
      Point is, If you think that commuting in Buffalo is a Hassle, you need to live in Virginia Beach and have to drive to the Norfolk Naval Station, or live anywhere in a 75 mile radius of either Washington DC or Atlanta for a spell. You’ve got no clue what traffic is, my friend.

      • Unfortunately I do have a clue what traffic is. I have driven the Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Washington sections many times as well as that dreaded circle around Boston. ( and now ill head thru West Virginia just to avoid them).
        That is not my point. Unjustly taxed local commuters? I once commuted from Henrietta to Alboin. I could have taken the 31, 104, 31A or a host of other roads, reaching top speeds of 55 and many reduced zones down to 30 or 35 with all the stop lights and stop signs. I took the thruway despite the tolls because it ensured me constant 65mph, no lights, stop signs or any other delay. (Why is it that a commuter going from Tonawanda to William Street would feel unjustly taxed but care not that a commuter from Canandaigua to Weedsport is not?
        This was because the Thruway was doing as it was designed to do, be a high speed non-interrupted fast track across the state.
        I still have friends that take the Thruway from Pembroke to Batavia. You save a little time and they, as you, do have other options. Thing is nobody, they or you ever say they are being unjustly taxed for driving one exit to work on the toll road. Seems the only unjustly taxed ones are the metro Buffalo commuters who expect that same high speed .
        advantage without the tax or the toll booths slow downs.
        Before retiring I traveled from Albion into the “free section” tolls every weekday about 5pm. Yes, there was always some delay at the tolls, even though I have easy pass. But this was minor. The big slowdown came within a mile as the 33. free of toll or even a sop sign merged with the 90. Then things turned to hell as the 290 did the same.
        Again the problem in Buffalo is that NYS allowed this one and only major urban area to transform our high speed stop free thruway into a local commuter jam…on a daily basis.
        I imagine it is a PITA in the ass for you, but less so than every other traveler on the Thruway in every other area blazing along at 65, stop free…till they hit the Buffalo “Free Section.”

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