The Williamsville toll barrier.
WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. -- For 15 years, the New York State Thruway Authority has spent a lot of time, and a lot of your money, studying moving the Williamsville Toll Barrier east.
Now, 2 On Your Side has learned that the move won't happen and the authority is spending more of your money, on another plan involving the toll barrier.
An authority spokesperson says a $10 to $15 million upgrade to the existing Williamsville toll barrier is being considered. Donna Luh, the Thruway vice chairperson tells 2 On Your Side's Jeff Preval that moving the toll barrier east is "off the table." For years, neighbors and leaders in Amherst and Williamsville have complained about the traffic backups the tolls cause and pollution due to that congestion.
"At this particular time, yes, we're not going to relocate that's been the biggest issue, we're not going to relocate, so you have to be careful how much money you put in before you know exactly what you're going to be doing with it," said Luh.
Luh adds that the Thruway Authority is holding off on all relocation projects, because it's trying to make every toll across the state better equipped electronically.
According to Williamsville Mayor Brian Kulpa and Amherst Councilman Jay Anderson, the Thruway Authority has been holding private meetings with various lawmakers over the last two months about its latest plan for the Williamsville tolls.
In February, a report by the Thruway was given to some local elected officials. It gave several options that Thruway officials discussed with elected leaders in person.
One of the options includes increasing the speed limit for E-ZPass drivers from five miles per hour to 35 miles per hour. The authority believes that this would decrease congestion and allow traffic to flow smoother. Part of the money would also be spent to improve the electronic capabilities of the E-ZPass tolls.
Anderson, who met with the Thruway to learn about the options says that the plan is a waste of money and that more should be done given the millions of dollars that's been spent by the state.
Anderson revealed more details about the plan to 2 On Your Side. He says part of the money will be used to create either a bridge or a tunnel at the Williamsville barrier for state workers to use to get to and from their posts. According to Anderson, this is the agency's solution to protecting employees from drivers who are going 35 miles per hour, but that it also could cause problems.
"The thruway needs to get serious, they can waste their $14 million and create further traffic delays for two years and say it's progress, it's up to them," said Anderson, who estimates that the state has spent more than $5 million studying the relocation plan.
"I don't know if it's going to have the same environmental impact in our neighborhoods that [the relocation plan] would've had and I guess I feel a little loss for information," said Kulpa.
The Thruway Authority says it wants feedback from lawmakers about their thoughts on the plan.
Anderson tells us the project would take two to three years to build.
Both Anderson and Kulpa expect an update from the agency on the plan next month.
A Thruway spokesperson says a final decision on the plan should be made by the end of the year.