ALBANY, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — The New York State Thruway Authority made the switch to cashless tolling over the weekend, removing 58 toll booth locations where drivers used to have to stop to pay along the 450-mile ticketed system. Drivers will now go under steel gantries that will take a picture of their license plate and send a bill in the mail, or automatically charge an E-Z Pass.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the $355 million project in his 2018 State of the State Address.
“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 to NCC News.
The Thruway Authority relied on toll collectors for the last 66 years to sit in the booths, but this change to cashless means around 1,100 current toll collectors have lost that job. Dougherty said around 200 were full time employees while the other 900 were part time.
“You always say the mailman works in all types of conditions; well the toll collector does as well,” said Jonathan Dougherty, a NYS Thruway Authority spokesperson. “Blizzards, hurricanes, heat of the summer, and they’ve been the backbone of this agency.”
He said since this plan was announced in 2018, the authority has worked with its toll collectors to help them find other jobs. They were given tuition assistance, paid civil service exams and paid CDL license training. Some toll collectors transferred to other divisions within the Thruway service and others chose to retire.
For the 77% of Thruway drivers who already have an E-Z Pass, nothing changed. Dougherty recommends all drivers get an E-Z Pass, because it’s easier and faster than receiving the toll charge in the mail. When non-E-Z Pass drivers do receive the bill, they can either pay online on the NYS Thruway website, on the TollsNY app, over the phone or through the mail.
Many drivers asked questions on social media about the ability of the gantry cameras to correctly read license plates. What if their license plate was peeling? What if snow was covering it? However, Dougherty said drivers don’t have to worry.
“These are state of the art cameras taking multiple pictures as you go under these gantries at multiple angles,” he said. “We take a picture of your front and back, so there are a number of ways we can take photos of the license plate.”
If drivers are worried about their peeling plates though, Dougherty said the DMV replaces them for free.
The Thruway is now in the second phase of the cashless tolling project which is to remove the old toll booths. Dougherty said that is expected to be complete by late next summer.