Donations ~ $10.00 - Lewiston, $20.00 - Grand island $20 - Niagara Falls $10- Cheektowaga $50. from Niagara Falls
Thank you! Total $110.00 Can you help?
We are at 8,743 signatures!
Combined total with signature sheets.
On Line signatures= 5,413
signature sheets = 2,330
LaSalle Pride signatures 1000 new total = 8,743
WE HAVE BEEN SOLD OUT!
Senators Mark Grisanti and George Maziarz have sold us out, They still refuse to resubmit the Toll Bill in to the NY State Senate. This is now simply a political issue, they have decided to tell the people of this area NO! We will not help the commuters of this area. We will not give relief to the people that have been paying tolls at the Grand Island Bridges since 1935.
George Maziarz told me a couple years ago that they would use this issue to help Grisanti get reelected? Then he admitted this is purely political. They will pander all day long but ask them to actually do something to help us and they say go to hell.
Now we know why the Toll Bill has stalled in the Senate.... Donna Luh and Senator Thompson made a deal.
Complaint filed against Senator Antoine Thompson
New York State Commission on Public Integrity nyintegrity.org November 16th 2009
Albany New York
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to you to inform you of a situation I believe is a violation(s)
of New York State’s Ethics Laws.
New York State Senator Antoine Thompson held a fundraiser
Friday night, November 13th at Oliver’s Restaurant in Buffalo.
On both the invitation and while using social media outlets such
as facebook to promote the event. Mr A. Thompson stated that
respondents should call Donna at (716) 681-2753 to R.S.V.P.
for more information.
The “Donna” referenced as the point of contact for Senator Thompson’s
fundraising efforts is in fact Donna J. Luh, a Board Member of the New
York State Thruway Authority/Canal Corporation.
I believe that because of Ms. Luh’s prominent role on the Thruway
Authority, her blatant involvement in the direct fundraising efforts
of a New York State Senator is indeed a violation of the state’s Ethics
Law and I am asking you to initiate an investigation of such activity.
At a time when we have legislation pending in Albany to remove the
tolls at the Grand Island Bridges, see http://NoGItolls.com , S6824
and A10003 respectively. Ms. Luh is against removing the tolls at
the Grand Island Bridges and Senator Thompson says he is wants
to eliminate them. Yet he has done nothing to push this legislation,
as he promised he would since Ms. Luh has been added to his
campaign staff. Her phone number has been on numerous fundraising tickets. See attached images please.
I also believe that it is extremely inappropriate for Mr. Thompson to employ a Thruway Authority Board member in this manner, and believe his actions demand further scrutiny from the Commission on Public Integrity.
Thank you for your consideration, please feel free to contact me at (716) ***-**** should you have any additional questions or with the results of your investigation. I will also be sending this complaint by regular mail this morning.
Grand Island, New York 10472
Why has Antoinne Thompson refused to resubmit the Toll Bill the Governor said he would sign?
~We demand Senator Antoine Thompson submit the toll Bill that the Governor agreed to sign into Law. This bill transfers the Niagara section of the thruway back to the state DOT, out of the hands of the unaccountable NYS Thruway Authority, and will eliminate the Tolls.
Antoine Thompson's Contact Information:
Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building
65 Court Street, Room 213
Buffalo, New York 14202
Niagara Falls Office
619 Pine Avenue
Niagara Falls, New York 14302
Legislative Office Building, Room 902
Albany, New York 12247
I was on the radio today Thursday Feb 19, 09 starting at 10 with Scott Leffler for a short bit
Then starting at 11am I will be on for the hour with David DiPietro live and uncensored…
We talked about the tolls at the bridges and who and why this fight has gone to Albany, a piece of legislation drafted, was introduced in the Senate by Maziarz, got released from committee and died before it hit the floor. Why?
This legislation was introduced in the Assembly by Hoyt and never made it out of committee, WHY?
We will be naming names and calling out this legislature.
They are looking for feedback and if the feedback is good we will be back on the air.
January 7, 2009
To The Office of the State Comptroller
Attn: Thomas DiNapoli, Mary Louise Mallick and Jennifer Freeman
Monday, our local radio station WBEN, ran a story that was written by Dave Debo, one of their best reporters. In this report Dave interviewed Donna Luh, a board member for the NY State Thruway Authority. She stated that our toll dollars are being used to run the Stewart Airport in Newburgh NY. This is in Hudson Valley, the same area where our toll dollars were funding two other sections of roadway, the 87 and the 84. It just so happens the airport is close to the intersection of these two highways. Two years ago when the Buffalo tolls were finally removed 10 years after they were required to be removed by State Law, one of these roads, the 84 or the 87, was given back to the DOT as part of the deal. Now we find out from Donna Luh that we are paying for an Airport in Hudson Valley. Is this true? Is this fact? As the petition creator at http://nogitolls.com/, we need to know the answer to this question. To be honest, this is infuriating. Would you please check for me and the rest of Western New York? Also I would like the list of everything that our toll dollars are being used for including how much money has been taken over the past few years to be put in the state budget. The Governor himself said that he would be using the surplusses from the authorities to help the budget. This is illegal as these funds are dedicated funds to be used for the thruway. How much longer will we allow the state to use the Thruway and the Dormitory as borrowing agencies for the state, in violation of the Law? Western New York is a depressed part of the state, where the economy is worse here than downstate - especially Hudson Valley, probably the richest community this side of NY City. Why are we paying for their roads and their airport with our toll dollars? In the meantime the NYSTA is "borrowing" $50+ Million to do work on the South Grand Island Bridge? This money has already been taken from us and well more in the 74 years we have been paying tolls to get home.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Thank you and it was a pleasure meeting you last year after the audit of the NYSTA.
From the article by Dave Debo:
"In addition to running the toll road, the Thruway Authority operates the state barge canal system, runs Stewart Airport in Newburgh NY, and pays for the state police Thruway division. Luh says the airport funding and a look at things like a $50 million allocation for the state police, will be reviewed as he Volpe Center, a federal DOT technology think tank, starts to evaluate operations."
My interview on WBEN
For immediate release. August 14, 08
Grand Island Tolls-The Battle lines have moved to the Executive Chamber
and into the lap of Governor Paterson
Last Friday was the day that we all had hoped and Prayed for, last Friday August 8th the Toll Bill was supposed to make it to the floor in the Senate for a vote and passage by the Senate as they were passing legislation that was unfinished. This Bill to remove the control of the 190 from the Thruway Authority and give it to the NY State D.O.T. was sure to pass if we just had the chance to get to the floor for a vote. That did not happen yet again. The last day of the session Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno bowed to Thruway Authority pressure and removed the Bill from the floor. This time the Toll Bill was removed from the floor by none other than Governor Paterson.
Apparently the Governor being pressured by the Thruway Authority convinced the Leadership in the Senate not to allow a floor vote. His claim is this is not the time to cut funding for infrastructure? Seeing the State of New York is in such a fiscal mess and we are facing a deficit of 6 Billion dollars. Is this our fault? Hardly, they should have been watching and never should have passed such excessive budgets in the recent past. Governor Pataki’s last budget was 112 Billion. Governor Spitzers last budget was 123 Billion. If my math is correct this is a one year jump in spending of 11 Billion dollars, in one year.
The passage of this Bill would represent a 32 Million dollar influx into the severely depressed economy of Western New York. This is not pork or a spending inititive, this is our money staying here instead of going down the black hole of Albany’s and the Thruway Authority’s massive and habitual financial mismanagement.
How is it possible for the Governor to stop a Bill from even getting to the floor for a vote? This is just another example of the dysfunction of our legislature. So now I am more than happy to go one on one with the Governor.
It seems that all the tough talk we hear from our Western New York delegation, is nothing more than hot air.
This is far from over, this simply furthers my resolve to follow this through and all the way to the Executive Chamber. We must get some representation and a fair break from the excessive rules, regulations, mandates, taxes, tolls and someone has got to take responsibility for the dying economy of Western New York. I had hope and faith that Governor Paterson actually cared about us. I am sadly mistaken, in truth he is just like all the rest, full of hot air, platitudes and false hopes for all of us up here in the land where we have earned the reputation of the New York Stepchild.
Our next step should be a lawsuit, a lawsuit to recoup the 180 Million Dollars that we paid for tolls in Buffalo for 10 years longer than the Law allowed. If it was not for the threat of a Lawsuit we would still be paying those tolls. For 73 years commuters have been paying tolls on the Grand Island Bridges, it is far past the time that they should have been removed.
Next year the Thruway Authority will once again “BORROW” 45 million to re-deck the South Bridge, will this ensure the tolls remain for another 30 years? We need new bridges and the only way we can do it is by bringing in Federal dollars, the longer the delay, the less of a chance we have.
This email was sent out 6-17 to the petition signers, all the media and all on the Ways and Means Committee
Hello Petition Signers and Media;
Your help is needed. It is only days before the end of the Legislative session and the Bill to eliminate the Grand Island Tolls is sitting in the Ways and Means Committee of the Assembly. The Bill number is A10003 and is sponsored by Sam Hoyt. We need to get this Bill out of committee and get it to the floor for a vote. Our immediate action is the only way this will get moved forward. The Bill in the Senate is out of committee and is ready for a floor vote and should pass by the 23rd which is the last day for session this year. If it isn't then we will have to wait another year, that is not acceptable.
Below you will see a list of all the committee members and their telephone numbers. Also the Governors telephone number. Please take some time and call as many of them as possible and ask them to please consider passing our Bill and get it to the floor of the Assembly so a floor vote can be taken before the 23rd. Also below is the email list of most of the committee members, you can email them too but, phone calls are much more effective.
The Assembly voted to remove tolls from down state last week but chose to ignore us. Why? It is time for them to stand up for us. Please do what you can for this is our last chance for this session. Please be kind and courteous and ask who ever answers the phone to pleae pass this message on to the Assemblyman or woman. We currently have 8500 signatures at NoGItolls.com.
Thank You for the help.
Governor: David A. Paterson 518-474-8390
Herman D. Farrell, Jr. 518-455-5491 Chairman of Ways and Means # Jeffrion L. Aubry518-455-4561 # William A. Barclay 518-455-5841 # Daniel J. Burling 518-455-5314 # Kevin A. Cahill 518-455-4436 # Nancy Calhoun 518-455-5441 # William Colton 518-455-5828 # Vivian E. Cook 518-455-4203 # Clifford W. Crouch 518-455-5741 # RoAnn M. Destito 518-455-5454 # Ruben Diaz, Jr. 518-455-5514 # Adriano Espaillat 518-455-5807 # David F. Gantt 518-455-5606 Chairman of Transportation # Deborah J. Glick 518-455-4841 # Aurelia Greene 518-455-5671 # Jim Hayes 518-455-4618 # Earlene Hooper 518-455-5861 # Sam Hoyt 518-455-4886 # Rhoda Jacobs 518-455-5385 # Brian M. Kolb 518-455-5772 # Ivan C. Lafayette 518-455-4545 # Joseph R. Lentol 518-455-4477 # Roy McDonald 518-455-5404 # John J. McEneny 518-455-4178 # Joseph D. Morelle 518-455-5373 # Catherine Nolan 518-455-4851 # William L. Parment 518-455-4511 # N. Nick Perry 518-455-4166 # J. Gary Pretlow 518-455-5291 # Robin Schimminger 518-455-4767 # Dede Scozzafava 518-455-5797 # Mike Spano 518-455-3662 # Fred W. Thiele, Jr. 518-455-5997 # Helene E. Weinstein 518-455-5462 # Mark Weprin 518-455-5806 I just sent this message to Governor Paterson at this link, please send him one to.
There is a Bill in the Senate and the Assembly that will finally remove the tolls from the Grand Island bridges after 73 years. This Bill will take the control of the 190 from Buffalo to Niagara Falls away from the Thruway Authority and turn it over to the Department of Transportation.
Will you support and help us push this Bill through the Assembly and finally free us of this commuter tax.
The 190 and the bridges border and cross Federal Navigated waters, because of this one crucial point we can open the door to all federal funding to fix, repair and build new bridges that the NYSTA has neglected. In a recent inspection all 4 bridges were rated below 4 and two were yellow flagged.
Millions continue to leave the bridges and go to the general fund in Albany. This money should have been used for the bridges. The bridges were not built to handle the traffic and we need new bridges, federal funds will help eliminate the state funding.
Please help us. Visit NoGItolls.com
Help us with the Bills in the legislature. George Maziarz and Senator Thompson, Sam Hoyt in the Assembly.
We need you commitment Governor Paterson, this will show your commitment to help in WNY come back economically.
**Media Alert** Toll update and a point of real concern.... WHY?
April 21, 08
Last week it was announced that the Governor was nominating a new member to the Board of the Thruway Authority. Donnah Luh has been nominated, we would expect to see her fill the position is currently held by E. Virgil Conway. That seat expired in January of 08.
It has come to my attention that she is to take Jeffrey Williams seat. Now why would the Governor want to jump ahead to fill a seat held by Mr. Williams? Mr. Williams was informed last week by the governors office that he is being replaced.
This gives me pause and is of great concern to us that have been in the fight to eliminate the Tolls at the Grand Island Bridges and with the current Bill that is in the Senate and Assembly to turn the 190 over to the D.O.T.
Jeff Williams has been a huge ally for ALL of us here in Western New York. Jeff is the only member of the board to vote NO on the toll increase. Jeff has been very vocal about the state abuse and use of the Thruway Authority as a borrowing agency and he has called Albany out over these issues. Jeff agrees with eliminating the NYSTA control over the 190 and the Grand Island Bridges there by eliminating the tolls that have plagued us for 73 years.
The NYSTA Board will be meeting later this week to vote on the toll increase. Is the governor sending him a message? Is the Governor trying to sabotage our efforts to get done what needs to be done to save Western New York commuters as much as 30 Million a year by eliminating the tolls at the Grand Island Bridges.
Governor Paterson claims he is dedicated to reviving the economy of Western New York. This is one huge way he can show his commitment to US. He must tell us if he is with us or against us.
I will not sit back and watch all our efforts be thrown out the window.
I expect the Senate to be voting on our Bill soon, then it is in the Assembly's hands. The Assembly MUST act in the Best interests of the People of Western New York and get this Bill out of committee and pass it on a floor vote. Then the Governor must sign it.
I fear that Governor Paterson is trying to undermine our efforts and is working with the Assembly and Sheldon Silver to say NO to us yet once again.
Please ask the tough questions of the Governor and the Assembly now. Western New York cannot be left out in the cold yet again.
Below is the text of the proposed Bill to be submitted in the Senate and Assembly.
Thank you Senator Maziarz, Rath and Thompson for picking this up.
Also Thank you to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt for doing the same in the Assembly.
Legislative Bill Drafting Commission14894-01-8
In Senate- Introduced by Senator George Maziarz
(Removes the Niagara section of the thruway from control of the thruway authority
and puts it under the department of transportation's control.)
Pub Aut. Niagara Thruway section
to amend the public authorities law and the highway law, in relation to removing the Niagara section of the New York State thruway from control of the thruway authority and to putting the Niagara section of the New York state thruway under control of the department of transportation; and to repeal certain provisions of the public authorities law and the highway law relating thereto.
The people of the state of New York , represented in the senate and assembly do enact as follows:
Section 1. Subdivision 8 of section 356 of the public authorities law is REPEALED and subdivision 9 is renumbered 8.
2 subdivision4 of section 356-a of the public authorities law is REPEALED and subdivision 5, as added by chapter 741 of the laws of 1957, is amended to read as follows:
The thruway constructed along the route described in subdivision eight of section three hundred fifty-six of this article shall be known as "The Algonquin Path".
Subdivision 6 of section 349-a of the highway law is REPEALED and subdivision 7, 8 and 9 are renumbered subdivisions 6, 7 and 8.
The highway law is amended by adding a new section 341-b to read as follows:
341-b Acceptance of a bridge and highway as part of the state highway system. The state accepts as a part of the system of state highways A certain bridge and highway starting at the junction of the Erie and Ontario sections of the thruway at a point in the vicinity of the crossing of Dingens Street and the Lehigh Valley Rail Road in the town of Cheektowaga, thence generally in a westerly direction to Erie Street in the city of Buffalo, thence through the front and north between Niagara Street and to the ship canal to the right of way of the abandoned Erie canal near the northern end of such ship canal, thence generally along such right of way, deviating therefrom to make connection with the easterly approach of the south Grand Island bridge, thence across the Niagara River, utilizing the existing South Grand Island, thence along or parallel to existing Grand Island blvd, across across the Niagara River, utilizing the existing North Grand Island bridge and such bridge and highway shall be part of such system, subject to the supervision and control of the commissioner of transportation, and hereafter maintained, repaired or reconstructed solely at the expense of the state, notwithstanding the provision of any other provision of law.
The aforesaid highway will be under the jurisdiction of the commissioner of transportation and in any future improvement shall be eligible for federal aid in the same manner as any other state highway or bridge.
This act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after it shall become a law: provided, however, that effective immediately the addition, amendment and or repeal of any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of this act on it's effective date are authorized and directed and to be made and completed on or before such date.
This was sent to the WNY delegation VIA Email today Jan 7,2008
Please consider Sponsoring and co-sponsoring this legislation
Senators, Bruno, Maziarz, Rath, Volker, Thompson
Assemblymen, Tedisco, Hoyt, Schimminger, Quinn, Cole, Hayes
It was a shocking day yesterday when I was informed that the Grand Island Tolls increased 33.3% from .75 to $1.00, two years ago we were increased from .50 to .75 so in two years we have seen a 100% increase in our tolls. When is enough, enough? This is a punch in the face to commuters when the economy is in the tank, gasoline at an all time high at 3.35 per gallon and taxes ever on the increase.
As I have discussed with some of you the plan to remove the Grand Island tolls and start the process of making the Thruway Authority smaller needs to begin now and I am asking you to put forth legislation to do just that. The plan is common sense legislation and the RIGHT thing to do.
In a nutshell, it is time to remove the Thruway Authority from the Niagara Section of the 190 including the Grand Island Bridges and tolls. Give this portion of highway to the New York State Department of Transportation. The tolls on the bridges have been in place since 1935, 72 years we have been paying to cross the island and this current toll increase shows us exactly how out of control the unelected Thruway Authority is. It is time to reign them in and start the steps of making the authority smaller. A 100% toll increase in two years is unacceptable.
Had the LaSalle Expressway been completed as designed we would have an alternative route, we don't and the Grand Island Bridges can no longer handle the excessive traffic, 72,000 vehicles cross the south Grand Island bridges and 51,000 cross the North bridges everyday. In 1950 the NYSTA took over control of the bridges and tolls, they were the very first tolls on the NYS thruway. Not until 1954 did the first toll section of the thruway open, so from the beginning the GI bridge tolls have been supporting the rest of the thruway system. Even Jeff Williams agrees with me, he wishes the DOT already controlled the bridges and the 190. Jeff is the first one to admit that the money collected at the Grand Island tolls does not stay here, only a minor portion actually stays to maintain the bridges, yet two of them were just yellow flagged and all 4 were rated below four. Had the money actually stayed here these bridges would be in top A-1 condition. Last year alone $10.6 Million went back into the general fund in Albany yet the Thruway Authority claims they are broke.
So we can do them a favor and remove this burden from them and let the NYSDOT take them over and bridge maintenance and repairs will be paid for out of the 19 cent Federal gas tax, highway use taxes, state gas taxes and every other tax under the sun that NY charges us. When 1.4 Billion is given back to the state for roads and bridges from the feds the money needs to be used for the roads and bridges as dedicated funds.
Commuters are now getting slammed with two dollars a day to get back and forth to work and school. EZ Pass discounts will be eliminated in July? This insanity cannot be tolerated any longer, time to reign in the out of control Authorities and start right here. It is the right thing to do. Please consider Sponsoring and co-sponsoring this legislation and start helping us here in WNY.
Our only other option will be to file a Lawsuit based on Taxation without Representation. For years we have been asking and in some cases begging to have these tolls removed and no increases in tolls, yet the unelected Thruway Authority does what they do because they can. It is time to hold them accountable and take these roads and bridges away.
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you all soon.
BCCC: all the media in the WNY area.
The Senate meeting on the tolls was canceled due to the weather but I have the chance to speak to Senators Maziarz, Thompson and Rath. They will also be putting together legislation based on my suggestions. I did not have an invitation to speak at the Assembly Democrat meeting so I sent this VIA email to all of the transportation committee members. I did not even know about it until Tuesday Dec11 and the meeting was held today Dec 12th.
To the Assembly Transportation committee.
Chairman David F. Gantt
Last week I was invited to testify to the Assembly Republicans concerning the proposed toll increase and the Grand Island Toll issue. I would like to be there today but I did not know about this public hearing until today Tuesday, Dec 11th. I could not change my schedule to give me the time. I hope you will accept this email and enter it into the record as a working document when you all meet to discuss how to go forward with saying NO to the toll increase and to give you more power with legislation to eliminate the Grand Island Tolls. It can be done with your help. One of the hottest issues is the canal system and the financial burden that is being placed on the toll payers. $80 million a year being funneled out of the Thruway Authority is no longer acceptable. Governor Pataki and Spitzer both said that they would seperate the two. This needs to be done there by eliminating the toll increase. Pressure and legislation need to be proposed and passed to do this. Last year alone the New York State Department of Transportation applied for and received $1.4 Billion from the Federal government Highway Fund. Those dollars are paid for by us in the 19 cents a gallon gasoline tax. The D.O.T. applied for all the (I's) interstate road system including the 671 miles of Thruway, the I- 84 and the I- 287. Approx $400 Million should have been allocated to the Thruway system yet none of it did. Had that money made it they could have cut the tolls in half through out the thruway system. Instead we are looking at toll increases for the next 3 years and that is no longer acceptable. So in this one suggestion we see $480 million dollars in savings.
Now to the Grand Island Tolls at the bridges.
I represent almost 8000 petition signers from the Niagara Frontier, nogitolls.com and the recent merge of our group with the LaSalle PRIDE a group from Niagara Falls. I discussed the following with Jeff Williams from the Thruway Authority and he agrees, he also is the first one to admit that not all the money collected at these toll booths stays here like the Thruway Authority and others have said it does, last year alone they ran off with more that $10.6 Million to fund the rest of the thruway and the thruway debt. We are the point where it is past time to start to make the Thruway Authority smaller instead of expanding as they have been for years. Take the Niagara section of the 190 from the city line, over the Grand Island bridges and into Niagara Falls away from the Thruway Authority and turn it over to the NY State D.O.T. Eliminating the tolls at the bridges. The D.O.T. gets it funding from already dedicated sources like the Federal Reimbursement and the Highway Use Tax (HUT). The Grand Island bridges have been tolled since 1935 and for 72 years we have been paying tolls to get on and off the island. Traffic has gotten worse over the years and is in excess of 71,000 vehicles at the South Bridges and 52,000 at the North Bridges. Daily traffic back up has become the norm with traffic backed up over a mile and sitting at a dead stop on the I-290 creating a very dangerous traffic safety hazard. The quickest and easiest remedy is to eliminate the tolls and by giving this section to the D.O.T. all will be done in one piece of legislation. The Thruway Authority took over the bridges in 1950 and were the first tolls on the Thruway System. Not until June 24, 1954 were there any other tolls on it. At that point a 115 mile section was opened between Rochestor and Lowell, west of Utica. I first discussed this with Senator George Maziarz, he liked the idea and he said he would research it and follow up on the proposal with his collegues and get back to me. Governor Spitzers popularity is at an all time low and is over 70% negative here in WNY. You and he could show your commitment to helping WNY by doing this one very importand step to help better the economy and stop the commuter tax on people struggling to make a living here. Jeff Williams from the thruway authority agrees, he feels that the Grand Island Bridges and the Niagara section should be run by the D.O.T. right now, so let’s make it happen. The other option I hear is building new toll booths on the other side of the bridges on Grand Island? That alone would cost 90 Million, and cannot be a serious proposal. Remove them for us all.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Grand Island, NY
Have you signed the petition? Sign it now at
To re-coin an old phrase, they're asking the Thruway not to toll! State lawmakers held hearings Thursday on proposals to eliminate the Niagara Thruway tolls in Buffalo. Erie County Clerk David Swarts says a long list of interstate highways are toll-free elsewhere in New York State. Swarts said, "I-290, I-390, I-490, I-590, I-990, I-81, I-690, I-481, I-790, I-88, I-86, I-890, I-787. No tolls! No tolls! What is wrong with people in Buffalo and Erie County, that there are tolls here?" Swarts says the Thruway Authority is picking the pockets of Buffalo commuters unfairly, and hurting the local economy.
# Chair David F. Gantt# MembersMarc S. Alessi# Darrel J. Aubertine# Jim Bacalles# Michael Cusick# Francine DelMonte# Ruben Diaz, Jr.# Joseph A. Errigo# Dennis H. Gabryszak# Joe Giglio# Sam Hoyt# Janele Hyer-Spencer# Ivan C. Lafayette# George S. Latimer# Donna A. Lupardo# Alan Maisel# David G. McDonough# Joan L. Millman# N. Nick Perry# Bill Reilich# Michelle Schimel# Mike Spano# Fred W. Thiele, Jr.# Matthew Titone# Lou Tobacco# Harvey Weisenberg
Assembly Republican Public Hearing on Proposed Thruway Toll Hike
I have been asked to testify to the Assembly Conference Wednesday December 5th concerning the tolls in WNY and specifically the Grand Island Bridge tolls. I don’t know how long I will have to speak but I could go on for hours. I will at first give them a brief history over the 72 years the people have been paying for these bridges, when the thruway authority took them over and reasons why they need to be eliminated.
Assembly Republican Public Hearing on Proposed Thruway Toll Hike
Chair: Assemblyman Jack Quinn (R,C,I-Hamburg)
Public Hearing: Exploring the negative impact that would be
caused to New York’s motorists and small businesses
if the proposed Thruway toll hike were implemented
Place: Mahoney State Office Building, Part 6, 65 Court St., Buffalo, NY
Time: 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
Contact: (Assemblyman Quinn) A.J. Wright (716) 826-1878
Media Contact: Assembly Republican Office of Public Affairs (518) 455-5073
ORAL TESTIMONY BY PRIOR NOTICE ONLY
Senator Maziarz writes the Governor on Tolls
Seems the gov can control things in NY City but when it comes to Western New York he has no power or control? No, I think it is more like having the desire to do what is RIGHT for the people here.
The Grand Island Tolls are a commuter tax, get rid of them. They are keeping us down in many ways economically and we have no choice but to drive over the bridges, there is no other way across Grand Island.
November 21, 2007
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
Governor, State of New York
New York State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Spitzer:
I read with interest your efforts to stop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from imposing a new fare hike on the New York City mass transit system. On the day before Thanksgiving, I’m sure many New York City residents are thankful for your decision.
Now, I encourage you to continue your efforts across the state by using your bully pulpit to discourage the New York State Thruway Authority from imposing massive toll increases on Upstate New York. While I recognize that many of the Thruway Authority’s board members were appointed by your predecessor, the fact remains that a strong message of opposition to the toll plan from you would influence their actions.
To put it another way, your comments in today’s Buffalo News are not acceptable to the people of Upstate New York. The governor of this great state–a state which is much larger than the New York City metropolitan area–cannot simply shrug his shoulders and say there is nothing he can do about it. I implore you to take the same aggressive approach to dealing with the unfair Thruway toll hike that you are taking with the MTA fare hike.
Please know I stand ready to assist you in any way with this issue.
George D. Maziarz
Senator, 62nd District
NoGItolls gains more momentum as a Niagara Falls community group called LaSalle Pride joins in with the Toll fight. We will be having a joint Press Concerence tomorrow 11-21-07 at 10:30 AM to announce the coalition and they will add 1000 signatures to our Petition. Our total now is more than 7500 signatures and growing. Carl Paladino will be joining us tomorrow and at the rally on Saturday. With the newest talk of raising our tolls 20% in two years the demand for an audit has come from Congressman Brian Higgins and others have followed suit. I called for an audit two months ago and have been relentless emailing all our representatives in demanding it and the removal of the Grand Island Tolls. Governor Spitzer was in town Monday and he claims that there is nothing he can do about the toll increase except try to keep it to a minimum. Once again they are either not hearing us or he is bowing to the Thruway Authority. It has come to a time for real citizen action and a protest. Please read below and be there Saturday as we walk across the North Grand Island Bridge. I will make sure the media coverage is there and some of the Western New York delegation will be there. Senator Maziarz, Thompson, Assemblywoman Delmonte have already committed. I have not heard back from anyone on the Erie County side as of yet. If there was ever a time to show frustration toward the thruway authority and the tolls, it is now, lets be there in force.
See you Saturday!
For Immediate Release, Nov. 20, 2007 Further Information: Ken Sherman
Coalition Announces Saturday Walk
Against the Toll Increase & Removal of
Grand Island Toll Barriers
LaSalle PRIDE and No GI Tolls will hold a press conference tomorrow, Wednesday, November 21st, 10:30 AM, to announce plans for Saturday’s protest demonstration. The 10:30 AM press conference will be at the pedestrian walkway to the North Grand Island Bridge at 63rd Street & Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls. La Salle PRIDE of Niagara Falls and NoGITollscom of Grand Island have "invited local, county & state elected leaders to a protest rally and walk against the proposed increase to tolls at the I 190 Grand Island toll barriers," said Walter Kendzia, spokesperson for LaSalle PRIDE. "We have collected over 1000 signatures for the removal of the toll barriers and plan to deliver them to our State representatives this Saturday," he concluded. "We are proud to join with LaSalle PRIDE in the fight against the toll increase and for the removal of the toll barriers," said Rus Thompson of NoGI Tolls.com "Our website has received 6500 signatures supporting the removal of the toll barriers. We will also file our petitions with the State officials present on Saturday," concluded Mr. Thompson. Petitions can be signed online at http://noGItolls.com Carl Paladino plans to join Wednesday’s press conference and will also speak at Saturday’s rally. Mr. Paladino advocacy around toll barrier issues were instrumental in the removal of the two toll barriers in Buffalo (at Breckenridge and South Ogden.) In a recent letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer he asked, "Why does the State punish residents of Grand island and Niagara County above the operating cost across its entire system? This question deserves an answer," he said. Saturday’s, November 24th, protest event will begin with a 11 AM rally at 63rd Street and Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls. The rally participants will be joined by several public officials in the walk across the North Grand Island Bridge (east side) to an area near the Toll Barrier. There the presentation of petitions will be made to several States’ elected officials. The offices of NYS Senators Antoine Thompson, George Maziarz and Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte have indicated they will be present. The LaSalle PRIDE petition states that "New York State has received sufficient funds to date from the collection of tolls to honor all commitments agreed to in its initial construction agreements. The removal of the toll barrier will end the continuing economic discrimination faced to those of us who must work, shop or attend school in Erie County. The savings, upwards of $7.50 weekly to the daily commuter, will pump more dollars not only back into the local economy but the State economy as well. In addition their removal will eliminate the idling of trucks, cars and buses that generates additional air pollution to our area." Join the Saturday, Nov. 24, 11 AM march across the north Grand Island bridge. Demonstrate to the NYS Thruway Authority that our tolls are too high and the proposed increases are not acceptable. The toll barriers must be removed. Join LaSalle PRIDE, the Grand Island "http://noGItolls.com " group, and invited local, county & state legislators at the rally / walk. MEET AT BUFFALO AVENUE AT 63RD STREET. There is plenty of parking in the empty lots there. We have over 7,500 signatures for the removal of the I 190 toll barriers which will be presented to our elected leaders. You can sign a petition at http://noGItolls.com or circulate the one attached and bring it to the rally. Patsy Mackenna, - Ken Sherman, - Rus Thompson, http://www.nogitolls.com
New revealing and damaging evidence against Albany Politicians,
the NY State DOT and Thruway Authority
For the past few months, Carl Paladino and I have been awaiting the response to our newest FOIL request. This FOIL was requested from the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, through the Federal Highway Fund. Startling revelations are now beginning to come through and we hope to have the completed FOIL in the coming weeks. As of right now, this is what we know. The New York State DOT applies, not only for reimbursement on the highway and bridge lane miles of the DOT Interstate Highway System, but also for the New York State Thruway System and bridges, including I-84 and I-287. Last year NYS DOT received $1.4 Billion in Federal Highway reimbursement funds, and approximately $4oo Million should have been allocated to the NY State Thruway System. So now we understand the DOT requests the money for all of the Thruway, Interstate roads and bridges. Yet none of that money is applied to the NY State Thruway System, operated and controlled by the Thruway Authority. They are Billing the Feds for the Thruway and not using the funds for the Thruway. This is a fraud being perpetrated against the use of Federal Highway Funds. This is also misuse and misallocation of funds clearly directed toward the Thruway and the Grand Island Bridges. We also have discovered that the two downstate highways I-84 and I-287, were sold by the NYS DOT to the NYS Thruway System for millions of dollars in bonds. NYSTA now must pay the debt service at $127 million per year.
Have you signed the petition? Sign it now at
Another meeting from the incumbents about tolls October 4th at 6:30 pm
How many more meetings can they have? Every time we turn around they have another meeting. When are they going to start listening and then act. This is just like all the rest of them, more pandering yet nothing will be done. We need to pack this meeting and voice our disgust over the tolls and the proposed toll increase.
Meeting to address safety and rehabilitation of the Grand Island Bridges Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D – Buffalo, Grand Island) and Town Supervisor Peter McMahon will hold a public meeting on Thursday, October 4th at 6:30 pm at Grand Island Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road to discuss the Grand Island Bridges. Hoyt and McMahon will be joined by Erie County
Legislator Michele Iannello and New York State Thruway Authority Buffalo Division Director Thomas Pericak, as well as other Thruway Authority and Grand Island representatives.
On the agenda for the meeting is the upcoming 2008 construction project to re-deck the northbound South Grand Island Bridge and addressing the condition of both bridges in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse. Discussion will also include the present day traffic congestion caused by the tolls and the impact of their removal or relocation in order to
alleviate traffic tension. Hoyt said, "This is a meeting that will cover three important issues and I encourage residents to come out and voice their concerns and suggestions.
The purpose of this meeting is to receive feedback from residents and to find viable solutions as a result." The meeting is open to all residents of Grand Island. For further information regarding the meeting, please contact Sam Hoyt's district
office at 716-885-9630 or Peter McMahon's office at 716-773-9600.
Look and view how they lack the maintenance the
Thruway Authority claims they do every year.
Why are they all rated below "4" ??
Where have all the millions of Toll dollars gone?
Text of Press Conference held August 29, 07
I am not a bridge expert nor am I here to scare anyone, I am here today to draw attention to areas on these bridges that are of a concern and need to be addressed. Since the bridge collapse in Minnesota, bridge awareness and concern has grown.
I have become more knowledgeable about bridges in the past month than I ever wanted to. But when people call me to get my opinion about bridge safety and structural stability, I get concerned and always question why they contact me. They say because “You are the only one doing anything about them.” How sad they feel they will not get the answers from our elected reps. Not surprising though. Our government is unresponsive and dysfunctional. It is past time that they start listening to us, the people that pay them. I have contacted a few engineers, took pictures and asked them to review and offer an opinion on them.
The results and opinions are not favorable, and I feel it my responsibility to take this time to point these things out in hopes that The Thruway Authority, our elected representatives and other engineers will act on these faster than they did to the 290/190 over pass. It took over 3 months and people that put their careers on the line to get the attention and the ultimate repairs we see on that bridge, and then, only after it fell 4 inches. The repairs are still a temporary fix, when will the job get done completely?
These bridges are the lifeline not only to the Grand Island residents, they are the lifeline for the 71,000 people that travel them back and forth to work between Niagara Falls and Buffalo every day.
Since 1935 we have been paying tolls to cross these bridges, hundred of millions of dollars have been paid and sent to Albany, yet little has come back for maintenance and repairs as we can see. The Thruway Authority claims that all the toll money collected stays here for these bridges. If that is true, why are they in such sad shape?
All four bridges are rated below 4...
Last year alone thru the foil request we found out the 10.6 million profits was made, that is over and above the costs of salaries, maintenance and over head of maintaining the tolls. Given that we can safely say the over 100 million has been pocketed over the past two decades. Where is all that money? Is there a dedicated fund set aside for the Grand Island bridges? Or has it been ransacked by our Albany politicians like the dedicated bridge fund that was set up in the early 90's?
Recent reports state that 750 million annually has been taken from that dedicated account to fund pork and operating budgets while only 20% actually went to bridges. I will be filing a complaint with the New York State Comptrollers office and the Attorney Generals office and asking them for an investigation as to where this money has gone.
It is the job of our elected representatives and the Thruway Authority to spend our money wisely and prudently, they have failed us over and over. The proof is in these bridges, and their number one priority is the safety and structural stability of our bridges.
With the hundreds of millions pocketed by the Thruway Authority over the years there should be enough money on hand to build new bridges immediately, right here between these two bridges. There is no reason to raise any taxes or tolls anywhere to fund this. We should be driving on bridges that are rated excellent seeing the amount of money we have paid for them.
Things need to change and these tolls need to be removed. This time the reasoning has extended to bridge safety. The first concern involves the direct removal of the tolls. Truck traffic has been a concern for years, but they have no choice there is no other route to travel. When the tolls stop trucks they then have to start going again to get up to speed while climbing the steep incline of the bridge. A couple hundred thousand lb truck trying to climb the incline puts an extreme amount of stress and vibration on the bridge.
Combine that with thousands of cars doing the same thing. It is a recipe for disaster. If the tolls were not there they would be able to travel up and over the bridges with out stopping there by reducing the vibration and stress immensely. The tolls must be removed now to prolong the life of this bridge.
Another option is to complete the LaSalle Expressway that was started and never completed. WHY? The road to no where or as some call it the road to Sears. Had the LaSalle been completed years ago we would not be here today.
The other concerns are right here above and behind us.
Corroded and frozen bearings, sliding plates that have been put in place of bearings extend over the base plate, reducing bearing capacity. These plates and bearings are crucial in the proper operation of the bridges expansion and contraction, if the bridges cannot move as designed it adds stress to areas of the steel bridges that were not designed for it.
Concrete piers as you see are cracked, concrete spalling is so serious that rebar is exposed. Rust oozing out of the cracks is a telltale sign that the steel underneath is corroding and the structural stability compromised. All of these columns need to be repaired immediately, the and structural stability tested.
What will it take to get their attention? I implore bridge engineers and inspectors come out and voice their concerns, even if they have to put their jobs and careers on the line. The bridge inspection reports should be posted online. Paint only covers up potential problems yet rust continues to flow out of joints, gusset plates and the bases of the bridges.
Concrete cracking and falling is all a sign of steel rusting within expanding and forcing the concrete to crack and break off. These bridges need immediate attention.
That concrete scares me.
The only thing holding that pier together is the rebar inside. Or the steel beam inside. The concrete is effectively shattered.
The steel is inside where we can’t see it.
But we know what’s happening to it.
It’s rusting and the rust is running out the cracks and down the outside of the pier. How much steel is left?
That pier is supporting two spans of bridge.
The shattered concrete atop that pier is holding nothing.
The steel inside is all that’s holding up those spans.
How much steel is left?
The surface spalling is severe in your second image, but that does not concern me near as much as the apparent deflection visible, (bowed in the vertical plane to the right, maxima just above the lower arch), or the horizontal crack that appears across two full faces of the pier and could well extend through the entire depth of the pier. I believe I see cracking in both arches as well.
Rus: From what I have seen of the pictures you sent me , several in particular are of particular concern:- the one bridged pedestal on which the expansion bearing on the left and the fixed bearing on the right appears to be heavily checked with rust streaks indicating deterioration of the concrete in the pedestal cap and to an unknown of the steel reinforcing within the concrete. This pier cap should be rebuilt.
- the underside of the bridge deck you showed in the picture appears to be heavily spalled to the extent that the steel reinforcing is evident in many places. The affected areas of the underside of the bridge decking should be repaired with an epoxy concrete mix to prevent further deterioration.
Rus , again; I need to emphasize again the need for a full study of the most recent bridge inspection reports of these structures to make an accurate determination as to what overall remedial ,work should be taken to bring these structures to the level of functionality that increasingly heavy traffic loads demand.
Below is the statement I read to the media today 7-8-07
Eight months ago, after the Buffalo tolls were removed and the WNY politicians refused to acknowledge the Grand Island tolls, I started a petition to finally eliminate the tolls at the Grand Island bridges. On November 11th, 2006 we launched the NoGITolls.com website and in the time since we have had 6000 people sign the petition electronically and on paper.
The only reason the toll removal will ever happen is because of the citizen activists that have signed the petition, and the involvement of Carl Paladino, doing the job that our local politicians should have been doing all along.
Now my opponent after a year and a half in office and with only six months to the end of her term, has decided to join our cause. Only since the governor appears to be considering this, has it suddenly become convenient for her to announce a "partnership" between business and government to pressure Albany to act. The Freedom of Information, or FOIL she claims is new information, has been on the NoGItolls website for over two months. This was a result of the combined efforts of myself and Carl Paladino. I also have the letter he sent to the governor excoriating the WNY delegation. Aside from the typical political fanfare, we are happy and and pleased about this awakening. I have here over 6000 signatures, I ask her to please bring hers.
In closing I need to stress the point that the only reason we are here is because of citizens like the 6000 that have signed the petition. If and when the tolls are removed, all credit belongs to the petition signers, not one single individual, and surely not one single politician. We need to give credit where credit is due.
If you have not signed the petition yet, please do so at NoGItolls.com.
Together we can make this happen.
No Grand Island Toll petition drive continues
Drive seeks end to bridge tollsFreedom from the tolls was the object of my mission during the 4th of July Parade yesterday on Grand Island. Instead of putting anything in the parade like a float or a decorated van I chose to walk the route with petition in hand.
I covered the petition sheets with a plastic cover and just walked the sides asking people if they wanted to sign the petition, at a couple points there were 10 to 12 people lined up waiting to sign. In the short route I was able to walk I got almost 100 more signatures to add to the total. We are well over 6000 now and I will have to total them up now to get an exact number.
To put it in simple terms, people are fed up with the tolls that were supposed to be removed in the 50’s. They are tired of the traffic that has gotten worse and worse, the accidents and the pollution. The fire in their bellies was fueled even more when the tolls were removed in Buffalo but not on Grand Island. They are fed up with the false promises over the years from Albany politicians, instead of getting rid of the tolls we were given books of coupons and then the EZ Pass.
Nothing they do or have done has ever taken care of the bottleneck traffic that we face every single day and with summer upon us it is even worse. Instead of joining in with the petition drive to eliminate the tolls our politicos are trying to figure out where to move the tolls. Don’t move them, remove them.
I wish I had a dozen people carrying petitions yesterday, we probably could have 1000 more signatures. Maybe a float would have gotten more attention, I don’t know.
Grand Island effort gaining momentum The failed political aspirations of his past are a contrast to Rus Thompson’s latest efforts to effect change in government. The Grand Island resident’s petition campaign to remove the Grand Island Bridge toll barriers has more than 6,000 signatures and the backing of influential Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, who was instrumental in ending toll collection at the Niagara Thruway toll barriers.
Thompson, 51, said he’s been speaking against the toll barriers and calling for their removal since the mid-1990s.
But his fight kicked into high gear last fall when the Thruway Authority did away with the Ogden and Breckenridge street toll barriers. The signature collection began as a door-todoor campaign and then Thompson started the Web site nogitolls.com.
Thompson described the 75-cent toll on the bridges as a commuter tax and adds that the toll barrier contributes to pollution since it often backs up traffic up to a mile and a half.
“It’s completely unfair that every other bridge in the state, except two, are free,” he said. “Why isn’t this one?”
When the Breckenridge and Ogden tolls were removed, Thompson said he tried in vain to contact elected officials to remind them of the Grand Island tolls. So he started the petition drive. Thompson last December drove to Albany, with 3,500 signatures, during a special session.
So far, he said: “I have the support of the Senate, and I have the Assembly Republicans.”
Since he started the Web site, he’s received 7,000 hits.
Paladino recently wrote a letter to Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer calling for an end to toll collection at the bridges.
In 2003, former Erie County Clerk David J. Swarts led an effort that garnered 20,000 signatures to eliminate the Thruway tolls, including the tolls on Grand Island bridges.
Grand Island Supervisor Peter A. McMahon said the Thruway created an issue of fairness when it removed the Ogden and Breckenridge barriers, which is fueling Thompson’s effort.
“The Thruway has created a problem for itself,” McMahon said.
He added that Thompson isn’t alone in the fight. McMahon and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, in January had a meeting with Thruway officials about the tolls and other issues.
Thompson is a self-employed contractor but spends plenty of time on political issues.
Although he has run unsuccessfully for office and may run again, Thompson said championing the toll issue is not a political move.
“Believe it or not, the fight to get rid of the tolls started long before I had any political aspirations,” Thompson said.
Thompson said it was 1995 when he served on the board of directors of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce that he began talking with Thruway officials.
OPEN LETTER TO GOV. SPITZER ON GRAND ISLAND TOLLS
The Grand Island, Castleton on the Hudson, and Tappanzee are the only bridges specifically tolled on the New York State Thruway System.
The roads on both sides of the Grand Island Bridges are toll free. In 2006, Thruway revenue was $594M, expenses were $335M, debt service was $127M, $90M went to a reserve for replacements and the Authority had a $66M surplus.
The Thruway Authority has 932 other bridges in its system for which maintenance costs paid out of general revenue were $13.5M for 2005 and $15.9M in 2006. It cost $6.9M in 2005 and $10.6M in 2006 to maintain the Grand Island Bridges which generated revenue of approximately $19.8M in 2005 and $20.6M in 2006.
Tolling the Grand Island Bridges inequitably, unfairly, and selectively penalizes WNY residents. In May, 2005 tolls were increased 50% on the Grand Island Bridges and only 25% on the Tappanzee Bridge.
Equal protection and due process rights under the constitution demand that the gluttonous Authority remove the selectively imposed tolls on the Grand Island Bridges.
The N.Y.S DOT, on behalf of the Thruway Authority, applies annually and receives from the Federal Highway Fund a per lane mile allocation of Federal Highway monies for maintaining the Thruway. DOT retains the money in the State’s general fund to be used for non-Thruway purposes. This is what is commonly known as the “Albany two step”. It all makes sense to Bruno and Silver. Why let the Federal Highway Fund pay for bridge and road upkeep when we can keep the funds in the State General Fund to pay for their insatiable needs and collect tolls to keep toll collectors and the State bureaucracy fat.
Why is WNY selected for the burdensome $.75 per trip when the State could get money from the feds to maintain the bridges?
Our weak, incompetent, arrogant and useless legislative delegation is conditioned to the Albany “everything is fine, what are you complaining about” mind set insuring that Western New York gets the back seat when it comes to fairness. DOT and other State agencyapportionments to Western New York per capita have historically been deficient when compared to downstate because our delegation historically groveled to over our “3 men in a room” government.
There are no toll roads (except for the main line thruway), nor are there any toll bridges in Albany, Utica, Schenectady, Syracuse, and Rochester. DOT bridges are non-tolled. Why does our State Legislature punish residents of Western New York? Why were the tolls on the Grand Island Bridges raised 50% instead of the 20% uniformly raised across the Thruway System?
After the required construction bonds were paid off in 1996, the “3 men in a room” sold the Thruway Authority the financial burdens of operating the canal system, 1-297 and 1-84 for significant compensation which was obtained by the Authority selling bonds totaling $2.3M since 1997, which cost the Authority 5127M last year in debt service.
Our Albany “3 men in a room” tax and spend junkies couldn’t resist the temptation to use Thruway revenue to bond to pay for their reckless spending.
Simply put we have tolls on the Grand Island Bridges to support a fat parasitic political bureaucracy, pay a cost of $49.7M in 2005 and $53.9M in 2006 to operate the New York State Canal System, pay $15.3M in 2005, and $14.1M in 2006 to operate the toll free downstate interstate highways 1-84 and 1-287, allow Thruway employees and others (4,250 unlimited free E-Z Passes are issued) to ride free in their private cars on the thruway for the remainder of their lives at a cost of approximately $1.6M per year, and pay 90% of the tuitions of all Thruway employees up to 15 credit hours per semester at the school of their choice?
Why do we put up with this “Albany two step” nonsense? Why are we at the bottom of the food chain in New York State?
It all kind of stinks. You are the new “sheriff” in town. Every journey begins with the 1st step.
Very truly yours,
Ellicott Development Company
Wow…. Great article.
I hope that more of the media picks this up so the people can see exactly what is going on here.
By Gordon Taylor - Managing Editor
Rus Thompson is an advocate who lives in the shadow of Buffalo on a small island community of Grand Island, NY. He has been leading a group of citizens on a quest to have the tolls removed from the bridge that leads to their island home. Rus has spearheaded a petition to have the tolls removed and has collected nearly 6,000 signatures to date. You can view his website, No Grand Island Tolls. We have reported on his mission in This Story in February of this year. Since then Rus has ramped up his campaign to have the tolls to their home removed by engineering a billboard campaign to bring attention to the cause his group is pushing.
For more then 30 years there has been an ongoing dispute between residents of New York State and the New York State Thruway Authority to remove the tolls on the entire road system. New York already receives money from the federal government to maintain this road system, as most of the roads in the NYSTA system are interstate highways.
The photograph at the right is the proposed billboard that Rus and his group want to post along the highway leading to Grand Island. However, it seems that his dream of a billboard campaign will not happen, as the New York State Thruway Authority raises it's ugly head in resistance to this effort.
Rus has been unable to find a sign company that will put up his ads. They are afraid of retaliation that will come from putting up the ad.
As expected, the NYS Thruway Authority has censorship rights on billboards that are erected on Thruway property, however even companies that have signs that are viewable from the highway, but NOT on Thruway property will not take his ad.
Your Ad Here
What seems a bit bizarre to this reporter in this day and age, the sign companies contacted will not even allow the locations of the signs or the company names to be used in any way. They are that afraid of what the NYS Thruway Authority might do to them, should they allow Rus' signs to be put on their property.
If I told you that I am selling candy in my store, and if you try and sell it, I'll burn down your business, I'd be arrested for extorting my competition. The New York State Thruway Authority, in telling advertising companies what content they can provide if viewable from their highway, is exactly the same thing. You can call it censorship, blocking freedom of speech or whatever you like, I am calling it extortion.
We all know you can't fight city hall, that phrase is used over and over to describe difficulties that businesses and citizens have with a particular government. In most cases, it's a law or ordinance that prevents the complainer from achieving a specific goal. However, that is not the case for Rus and his group.
In this example of restraint, it's simply big government flexing it's muscles, bullying the participants and getting their way by the use of threats and intimidation.
Rus Thompson must be doing something right, for a large government agency from New York State to be afraid that Rus might be successful in his fight to have a needless toll removed from a previously toll free bridge, is very revealing indeed.
Rus, keep up the fight, you are doing something right!
I have the answer…….. GET RID OF THE TOLLS! Subject over, traffic problems alleviated, move on…
While almost 6000 of us are fighting to eliminate the tolls, these two (Hoyt and Iannello/Ward) are doing the opposite. Why try to figure out how to reconfigure and move the tolls when the simple answer is to remove them. Why are they working against us?
Sam Hoyt can put in all the legislation he wants as can Iannello/Ward but following through with what they propose would be a good idea don’t you think?
Why are they working against us? If there was ever a time to get rid of the tolls, it is now. People are fed up, tired of sitting in traffic, tired of feeding the insatiable blob in Albany and the thruway authority. How many friends of these two have jobs as toll workers or managers…
To contact them
Bridge Reconstruction Committee Addresses South Bridge Rehabilitation - February 2007
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D – Buffalo, Grand Island), Town Supervisor Peter McMahon and County Legislator Michele Iannello hosted the first meeting of the Grand Island Bridge Reconstruction Committee on Friday, February 2, at the Town Hall. Joining Hoyt, McMahon and Iannello were representatives from New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA), New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), representatives from the Grand Island Town Board, Traffic Safety Advisory Board, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Advisory Board, and members from the community.
The committee was formed by Assemblyman Hoyt and Supervisor McMahon to address Grand Island residents’ concerns about the upcoming construction project to re-deck the northbound South Grand Island Bridge in 2008. The committee will work with the Thruway Authority for the duration of the project to create solutions to alleviate increased traffic tensions that may occur throughout the reconstruction process.
Hoyt said, “As construction on the bridges is expected to create significant inconveniences to Grand Island residents, it is imperative that we minimize further distress as much as possible. I think we got off to a productive start at Friday’s meeting and were able to present the goals and expectations of the committee as well as start the dialogue regarding balancing the needs of the community and construction demands.”
McMahon added, “A similar committee was formed the last time that the NYS Thruway Authority made major repairs to the Grand Island Bridge decks. The original committee was convened by Sam Hoyt’s father. It made a number of suggestions to the Thruway which were implemented, resulting in a significant reduction in inconvenience to Island residents and businesses. The volume of traffic today is considerably heavier than in the 1980s. This makes the committee all the more imperative.”
Among the topics discussed on Friday were the Grand Island tolls. During the reconstruction process, one of the issues that the committee will be looking very closely at is the present traffic congestion caused by the tolls and evaluating the impact of their removal or relocation in order to alleviate traffic tension and to eliminate the financial burden on residents of Grand Island. Since 1999 Hoyt has introduced legislation every session which would eliminate the Grand Island tolls. At the suggestion of Erie County Legislator Michele Iannello, one of the main goals of this committee will be to work closely with the Thruway Authority to help relieve the traffic congestion caused by the tolls and search for alternatives to the current toll collection process.
Iannello said, “Providing relief to the traffic congestion caused by the tolls for the taxpayers of Grand Island is my highest priority. I am confident that through this process and with the cooperation of the Thruway Authority we will be able to accomplish that goal.”
Hoyt concluded, “The work of this committee will be integral to the success of the reconstruction project on the South Grand Island Bridge. I am appreciative that both Grand Island representatives and the Thruway Authority have agreed to come together early in the design phase of the project.”
For Immediate Release 2-20-07
For years and years the people of Western New York have been asking and demanding the tolls be removed from the thruway, the 190 and the Grand Island Bridges. For years the politicians in Albany have told us that the Thruway Authority needs the toll money for the upkeep and maintenance of the roads and bridges.
Truth be told, much more of the toll dollars goes to the employment of the staffing, senior executive compensation ranging from $115,000.00 to $164,000.00. Tollbooth managers receive about $68,000.00 a year and toll takers receive approximately $20.00 per hour. Fringe benefits total 36.75% of their salary. Benefits include a very liberal health insurance plan, vision care, dental insurance, free EZ Pass for life, 401k, long term care insurance, flexible spending accounts,a tuition assistance program that pays 90% of the tuition, life insurance and more.
Even when Governor Pataki proposed legislation to establish the New York State Canal Corporation as a separate and independent entity from the Thruway Authority, saving the toll payers of Western New York $110 Million, still nothing changes.
Last year when the tolls came down in Buffalo we all praised the Albany politicians as the Republicans stepped up to take 14 Million from their pork accounts to pay the Thruway Authority for revenuse lost. Assemblyman Hoyt made a deal giving back a section of downstate thruway back to the NYSDOT, which would save the thruway Authority the 14 Million in lost revenue.
All this only came from pressure applied to our legislators from a lawsuit filed by Joel Giambra, Carl Paladino and Mike Powers. Then and only then were the tolls taken down. I do not even think the lawsuit was necessary, but they had that on their side. I think that when this information got out about this FOIL, which would have been an embarrassment enough to remove the tolls from New York State, not just Western New York.
A job that should only be worth 8 to 10 dollars an hour we now find out pays double that with benefits the regular working man and woman in this state will never see. This should be an outrage to every working person in this state. For an unelected Authority to be able to bury this state in debt while paying for the lavish life time of yet more government workers is appalling. Par for the course, but appalling by rational standards.
How many millions of dollars do we already receive from the Federal Government in Highway funds that are sent into the general fund in Albany, or how many millions have we forfeited because this state chooses to have taxpayers and commuters pay the tolls in this state.
I formerly request the Governor to remove the tolls at the Grand Island Bridges to relieve the commuters and residents of Grand Island of this commuter tax. I also ask the Attorney General and the Comptroller to investigate this critical issue.
The Toll Removal Fight Continues.
by Rus Thompson
The effort to remove the tolls in WNY continues and the focus at this point is centered on Grand Island. This commuter tax is a much bigger issue than just for Grand Island residents, it encompasses Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The people that have to travel back and forth to work everyday know the expense, the long waits in lines, the waste of fuel and the dangerous traffic hazards.
Many of our elected representatives ignore the fact that there is a Federal Law making it illegal to charge people to get to their homes. In moves of appeasement, the politicians invented the EZ Pass. All that does is make it EZ to continue to take your money. This does not address the fact Federal Law overrides State Law. Taking this issue to court would be a very expensive venture. Not only does this punish the people that live on Grand Island, it effects everyone that drives to Niagara Falls or to Canada to visit friends. It punishes those that drive back and forth to work or come to the Island to purchase a car, which is HUGE!
An unsolicited letter arrived in the mail boxes of people that sent e-mail messages to the Governor and the Legislature. In this letter the Acting Director of Public Affairs stated that the Thruway Authority needs the toll money to maintain the bridges and roads in NY State. Their excuse is always the same, we need your money for the roads. The petition signers did not solicit a comment from the Thruway Authority, but got one anyway.
In 1997 the Albany Legislature voted to keep the tolls, thereby making and keeping this a political issue. It is the Legislature in Albany and the Governor that can make these tolls go away. How many Federal dollars have we forfeited by keeping the tolls? Federal Tax dollars are used to maintain roads in the continental US. New York in its infinite wisdom and desire to be held unaccountable, creates Authorities to do its dirty work and by doing so, need not be responsive to the people.
In order for Western New York to come back from years upon years of economic instability, our representatives need to be held accountable for their continued taxation, via commuter taxes on the thruway in and around the region. You can support an on-line petition drive by signing the petition listed below. We must all work together if we are to bring this area back and to keep the people from fleeing the area for greener pastures.
I received this in the mail today as have others, I am curious, why? I have not sent any letter to the thruway authority.... I only sent a few to the Governors office, is this his response? I would certainly hope not. January 25, 2007 Mr. Rus Thompson
Grand Island, NY 14072
Dear Mr. Thompson:
Thank you for your recent letter regarding Thruway tolls on the Grand Island Bridges.
The Thruway Authority has a responsibility to maintain and operate the Thruway system in
a safe and efficient manner for the millions of motorists that use it each year. Simply removing the
tolls at the North and South Grand Island Bridges would not eliminate the need to maintain, operate
and invest in this section of highway, or the system statewide.
For example, over the next five years, the Authority plans to invest more than $62 million in
the Grand island area, in addition to the future rehabilitation or possible replacement of the Grand
Island Bridges. The Authority estimates that the replacement of these four bridges alone (two North
Grand Island Bridges, two South Grand Island Bridges) would cost approximately $500 million.
That being said, the Authority recognizes the uniqueness of the highway networks in and
around the Buffalo/Niagara area, specifically the impact on Grand Island residents and commuters.
Prior to the first toll adjustment in approximately 17 years, the Authority adjusted the toll structure
accordingly. in fact, for those taking part in the E-Z Pass Grand Island Resident Plan, the 9~ toll did
not change, holding residents harmless and has remained the same as when the plan was first
established in 1980. Also through E-Z .Pass, Grand Island commuters are offered a monthly
minimum usage charge of $5.00 -- 20 trips at 25~ per trip vs. the full toll of 75~ per trip.
Taking into account the uniqueness of the area, the Authority is having Vollmer Associates,
an engineering firm that specializes in traffic and transportation planning, conduct a study to
examine the costs, benefits and impacts of alternatives to the way the Authority currently collects
tolls across the Thruway System, including Western New York. The framework for this study is
expected to be completed in early 2007.
Should you have additional concerns regarding this matter, please feel free to contact my
office at (518) 436-2983.
Betsy L. Graham
Acting Director of Public Affairs
New York State Thruway Authority
Response to Legislator Iannello
I would like to thank Legislator Iannello/Ward for her committment to the removal of the Grand Island Tolls. Her resolution is a welcomed addition to the support that has been built toward the removal of the tolls. This issue has been a burning issue for Grand Islanders for decades and a personal fight of mine for the better part of 10 years. We have tried every aspect of following the chain of command. From the Town Board, County Legislature, County Executive, County Clerk, Public meetings at GI Town Hall and with our representatives in Albany and the Thruway Authority. To this date, none have been effective. During the summer when the Buffalo Toll issue started heating up, I was calling and emailing our representatives, asking about the removal of the Grand island tolls along with the Buffalo tolls. My calls and emails went unanswered. We were being ignored by our representatives in Albany. Finally when the day came for the removal of the tolls, I contacted other representatives of WNY, this time outside of our district, Senators Volker and Maziarz. They returned my call and met with Governor Pataki. Both Senators agreed these tolls shold be taken down and when the Governor said he had not heard any public outcry, I knew our voices were not being heard from our representatives. This is why I started the Petition drive and along with that I have secured the support of the Senate Republicans and the Assembly Republicans along with Democrat Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and Senator Antoine Thompson. I was deeply disturbed when I went to Albany to deliver the petitions to the Governors office. Senator Cappola was no where to be found but, I was able to talk to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt while he was in the Democrat caucus meeting via cell phone. He congratulated us on the amount of signatures we had gathered in such a short period of time and he said he would bring this issue up in the meeting and after we would meet. After I delivered the signatures to the Governors office I walked up to the Assembly Chambers and saw Assemblyman Hoyt. As we were walking out of the chamber area I asked him how the meeting went and what was the response from the Assembly about the Petition signatures.. Assemblyman Hoyt said he did not bring this issue to the floor. I try to take a man by his word that if they say they will do something, they will do it. He didn't, he said what I wanted to hear and to appease us. He failed us when he had a perfect opportunity to act, as we had already built an overwhelming amount of support. It is a pity, a real pity that he did not take advantage and use the momentum to bring this forward in the Assembly to help the people of this district. I certainly hope that our new Governor has a "listening ear" to quote Mrs Iannello/Ward because Sam Hoyt, Marc Coppola and Louise Slaughter appear to be deaf. We will continue with the efforts to gather signatures and to continue the pressure on our Albany representatives. If Governor Pataki does not respond to our pleas we will deliver the signatures to Governor Spitzer. This should not be a partisan political issue, we must all work together if we are to accomplish anything for Western New York. Have you signed the petition? Say No to Grand Island Tolls.. nogitolls.com/
Thank you for your continued support.
firstname.lastname@example.org It was out the door and off to see the governor for islander Julianne Thompson on Wednesday morning. Her husband Rus was the one who traveled to Albany last week to
deliver his ~No More Tolls” petition with 5,000 signatures.
But he was “filthy dirty” doing a ceiling at a chemical plant in Tonawanda, so it was up to his wife to whip up a letter, throw on some clothes and be at the Huntley Power Station by 11 a.m. to urge Gov. George Pataki to take down the tolls. “He’s a very tall man,’ Julianne said about the gover- nor during her first but maybe not last visit. Also on hand at the “win- win-win” Huntley Power Station press conference was Town of Tonawanda Councilman John Donnelly, who said he saw Julianne with Pataki but was too busy to notice the details of their conversation. “Lots of times, it seems they are just giving you lip service,” Julianne said. “Pataki doesn’t really strike you that way even though he’s a politician. After a fortuitous ride with some media workers on a shuttle bus from the Huntley parking lot to the event Julianne’s spot ran all day on the radio — she managed to meet up with the governor. Pataki promised to read the letter that afternoon, she said, and get back to her and Rus about the petition If you recall, Pataki had already rebuffed politicians who approached him with the plea for “No Grand Island Tolls!” “He said there was no public outcry for it on Grand Island,” said Rus Thompson, a home remodeler who lives near the high school on Tracy Lane. Do 5,000 signatures now represent a public outcry? The Thompsons hope the answer comes before Christmas. It would be an amazing Christmas present for islanders and the region in general, he said. “We need a victory,” Rus said. “Downstate politics has dominated this area for so long.” But then there’s the revenue source question, which even Donnelly says is a hurdle. But Rus says making the canal system self-funding instead of a drain on the thruways and bridges is the answer. “That would save taxpayers $110 million a year,” he said. In addition, Thompson has said closing the bridges would eliminate the need for costly toll takers with their health plans. Monday to update the board as well as media, students and residents about his toll- removal efforts, which he insists are selflessly motivated. ~This is after years and years and years of broken promises,” Rus said. Somebody needs to take the bull by the horns.
Thompson may challenge constitutionality of GI tolls
by Karen Keefe
If Gov. George Pataki has Rus Thompson’s phone number, he’s not dialing it Meanwhile, bridge toll activist Thompson,
figuring silence from the governor is not golden, is planning his next move — and it could be a lawsuit, not just the silent
protest he promised. Last Wednesday, Thompson delivered nearly 5,000 petition signatures to Albany calling for removal of
the Grand Island Bridge tolls. He was hoping fellow Republican Pataki would hear him out, personally, but he was directed to
drop off the petitions in the mailroom.
However, Thompson did talk to the minority leader of the Assembly and his chief of staff. and he offers up a tasty tidbit:
“A federal law ... saying that you cannot charge people to get home.” The possibilities are not lost on Thompson. “Seeing that
the Grand Island bridges are our
only way to get home, we do not have an alternate route. If there is a federal law, it would supersede any state law, and
that would put the Grand Island tolls in violation of the federal law,” Thompson said at Monday’s Town Board meeting.
“Could you do a little bit of research on that for me, please?” he asked Town Attorney Peter Godfrey. Godfrey said
he could talk about the matter with him at some point after the meeting. Grand Island residents with E-ZPass currently pay
9 cents a trip, while the full fare for commuters is 75 cents. The tollswere supposed to be retired in 1996, when the price
of constructing the bridges was to be paid off.
Thompson said he really didn’t want to “go the lawsuit path,” because of the potential cost to taxpayers, but he
would probably have to keep that option open as insurance, if other routes fail.
The petition drive continues, with at least 100 more signatures added since last week, and Thompson plans to parlay
that support into a protest of Pataki’s policy. “I want to figure out when the governor’s going to be in town, ‘cause when I
know the day he’s going to be in town is the day I want to have a protest on the bridge.”
Thompson doesn’t want anyone to violate any laws, just stay on the pedestrian path and make their point. “Basically,
I don’t want to have yelling and screaming like a lot of the unions do. I mean, I just want to have people up on the bridge
with signs — make up their own signs: ‘No tolls’ ‘Stop the tolls,’ ‘Get rid of the tolls,’ whatever they want to write on the signs.”
Thompson thinks with the Bass Pro deal likely being the one that got away, Pataki could find no better gift for the area
than to get rid of another set of tolls, just like the Breckinridge and Ogden barriers. “Come on, governor, do it,” he says.
The trip to Albany is over and the signatures have been delivered.We have the support of the Senate & the Assembly RepublicansI met with Senator Volker and Assembly minority leader Tedesco.I talked to Sam Hoyt about these tolls and at that time he was in agreement. Sam told me he would bring it up in the Democrat caucus, he was in the meeting at that time. After the meeting I found Sam in the hallway talking the media. As we walked out of the Capitol bldg I asked him if he did as he said he would and that was to bring it up in the caucus meeting. Sam said NO.All he would say was "this governor is not going to do anything about these tolls". This was the perfect time for the Assembly to make a move, I had already received the support of the Republicans and this could have been a very bi-partisan move to do something to show the people of Western New York that they do care about us up here and want to help us with our economy. A few questions come to mind, did Sam not bring this issue up or did he and he was quickly silenced by Sheldon Silver? If he failed to bring it up, then he failed to represent us and follow through with bringing this issue to the forefront as he told me he would. If he did and Sheldon Silver silenced him then Silver controls our destiny, not our representatives.
ask them to support the removal of these tolls.
or Call them here is a list with phone numbers of our Western New York Delegation. Sam Hoyt 716-852-2795 Marc A. Coppola (716) 854 8705 Robin Schimminger 716-873-2540 George D. Maziarz (716) 731-8740 Francine DelMonte 716-282-6062 Mary Lou Rath (716) 633-0331 Mark J. F. Schroeder 716-826-0152 William T. Stachowski 518-455-2426 Jack Quinn 716-826-1878 Dale Volker 716-656-8544
Mike Cole 716-675-7170
Jim Hayes 716-634-1895
Paul A. Tokasz 716-852-2791 Majority Leader
James Tedisco 518-370-2812 Minority Leader
This is the Email I sent to them.
To the WNY delegation, Senators and Assemblymen
I am fully aware that Governor Pataki has scheduled a special session on the 12th.
I am considering coming to Albany with signed petitions in hand to eliminate the Grand Island Bridge tolls.
I will be making a media event of this and will be attempting to get media attention of it this week to get as many signatures as possible before Tuesday. If Governor Pataki doesn't think there is no public outrage over these tolls after this week, I will continue on with adding pressure to him and Governor elect Spitzer.
I would appreciate all of your support and would hope that you all would gather together to craft legislation to send to the Governor along with these signatures. I do plan on going to the Governors office to hand deliver these to him. I hope as our WNY delegation you all would join me and the media as we knock of the Governors door.
At this time we have over 3040 signatures in the online petition and close to 1500 hand written signatures.
Totaling over 4500 signatures, not bad for 4 weeks and little media attention.
Thank you for your anticipated support on this crucial issue.
Rus Thompson Grand Island, New York
What you can do to help!
You can help, print these up and pass them around, when a page is full please email me
I will pick them up. The goal of 20,000 can be reached with your help.
I will personally deliver all signatures to the Governor before he leaves office.
Most importantly E Mail this link to all your contacts.
Print up signs that say SIGN THE PETITION ~ NOGITOLLS.COM
Put them in your storefronts, in your car window, and around the roads you travel.
We can do this with your help. They are watching this closely in ALbany.
Page views are coming from Senators, Assembly, Albany, NYCity etc. We are being heard!
To: Governor of New York State
Petition to remove the Grand Island Tolls
The Honorable Governor Pataki
Governor Elect Eliot Spitzer
In recent weeks it has become apparent that the people of Western New York are fed up with the taxing of its citizens through the toll booths. Call it what you will, commuter tax or a tax for the upkeep of the bridges, it is wrong and we want the tolls removed from the Grand Island Bridges. Commuter traffic has become so intense traffic is backed up onto the Youngman Expressway (290) as they wait in line to get onto the 190 off ramp, to wait in line to pay the tolls. Vehicles traveling at the speed limit are now coming up on vehicles at a dead stop.
Governor, we have three options at this point;
1- Build another bridge to Grand Island New York. 2- Expand or widen the bridges. 3- Remove the tolls to allow the free flow of traffic. The quickest, easiest and least expensive way to resolve this issue is to remove the tolls from the Grand Island Bridges as soon as possible. We have been working to eliminate the tolls from the bridges since the 1950's. We have gone through the chain of command, the local Town Board, the County government, the Assembly and the Senate. Legislation that has been introduced has failed us over and over again, as political promises that have been made have never come through. We the people of Grand Island and Western New York request that you, the Governor of the State of New York, remove the tolls from the Grand Island Bridges.
Thank you for your Leadership in this matter.
November 3, 06
Governor Pataki says NO to Grand Island tolls..
In the past few weeks the toll issue took center stage in the Buffalo area. The moves were made to remove them at the Breckenridge and Ogden tolls areas and they have been removed, thanks to the efforts of many involved. With the forward momentum it seemed senseless that no one was trying to take advantage of this momentum and try to take out the Grand Island Bridge tolls too. These tolls have been paid off for years and efforts by the assembly have gone no further than the Transportation committee. Rus Thompson persued it through the Senate Republicans Dale Volker and George Maziarz and secured thier 100% support and late last week they met with Governor Pataki. When Senator Dale Volker called Rus on Thursday, Nov 2nd, it was not the call he had hoped for. Senator Volker broke the news that Governor Pataki said NO to the Grand Island tolls. Seems Mr. Pataki thinks that there is no public outcry for the removal of the tolls. The tolls have become an increasing traffic hazard, on a daily basis traffic is backed up onto the 290 (Youngman). When vehilcles traveling at 55 MPH they come upon traffic at a standstill on the 290. The time to get through the toll booths grows everyday causing a pollution hazard from car exhaust. One thing or another has to happen at this point. Number one and the easiest would be the removal of the tolls to allow the free flow of traffic thru and across the bridges, or we have to build another another bridge, or widen the south Grand Island bridges which is a very expensive alternative. The best move and least expensive would be the removal of the tolls. Mr. Thompson is printing up petitions and will set up a webpage for people to be able to print up petitions for the removal of the tolls. When we feel there is enough signatures from commuters and Grand Island Residents, Mr. Thompson will personally hand deliver the signed petitions to either Mr. pataki or the next governor, which ever comes first. A great deal of Thanks to Senators Volker and Maziarz for their efforts on this matter. We really appreciate their promised support in future with this effort. We will get these tolls removed once and for all for all Grand Island Residents.