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For Immediate Release: May 18, 2006

Draft Environmental Impact Statement Accepted by Federal Highway Administration
Proposed Barrier Relocation Includes Implementation of Highway Speed E-ZPass

The New York State Thruway Authority today announced that the Williamsville Barrier Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been formally accepted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The DEIS identifies the preferred alternative, which is to relocate the barrier from its present location to the Town of Newstead, Erie County, between Interchanges 48A and 49. The proposed new facility would be located between North Millgrove Road and South Newstead Road in the Town of Newstead.

“FHWA’s acceptance of the document moves this long-awaited and important project forward to address operational and capacity concerns at the existing toll barrier, while addressing environmental and community concerns, and introducing Highway-Speed E-ZPass to Western New York,” said Thruway Authority Executive Director Michael R. Fleischer. “The preferred location was selected due to less property takings required and reduced costs, and Highway-Speed E-ZPass will reduce traffic congestion and delays, result in increased regional mobility, and improve safety.”

Since the original design and construction of the existing Williamsville Toll Barrier in 1954, the average daily traffic passing through the barrier today is nine times greater than the daily traffic that the original barrier handled. Barrier operations at the current facility are further complicated by the proximity to Interchange 50 (I-290) and Interchange 49 (Transit Road).

“Moving the Williamsville Toll Barrier to the east has been a project many years in the making,” said State Senator Mary Lou Rath. “The Thruway Authority has carefully selected a preferred location in Newstead to relocate the Williamsville Barrier and will work diligently with Newstead residents to listen to their questions or concerns. The new barrier will feature Highway-Speed E-ZPass and the entire project will impact the overall flow of traffic in and out of northeast Erie County.”

To further address operational concerns and efficiency, the Authority will construct Highway-Speed E-ZPass lanes at this location, enabling E-ZPass customers to drive through this location at highway speeds using dedicated E-ZPass lanes. The Highway-Speed E-ZPass lanes would be physically isolated from the location used to serve cash-paying customers.

For the safety of all motorists and toll collection employees, Highway-Speed E-ZPass lanes would allow customers traveling at highway speeds to safely separate themselves from the Toll Plaza lanes, travel through the area at highway speeds while electronically paying their toll and allow cash-paying customers to merge back with mainline traffic.

While the Authority has named a preferred alternative location, between Thruway Interchanges 48A and 49, public input will be solicited before a final determination is made. Public Outreach is an essential and required component of this project.

“The public’s ideas, opinions and involvement in this project are essential to recommending an effective solution for the future,” said Fleischer. “Continued community involvement throughout the EIS process will help to ensure the preparation of a complete document, and will play a significant role in the selection of the preferred project alternative.”

In addition, the Authority will be releasing the DEIS for public comment soon and a formal public hearing will be held this summer.

The Williamsville Barrier project is included in the Authority’s multi-year capital improvement plan with a December 2008 letting. The Authority estimates that the construction of a new facility will cost $60-80 million; it is anticipated that construction will be completed and the new facility operational in 2010.


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