Cashless Tolls

Dear Islanders,

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear, the Duke of Albany warns of "striving to better, oft we mar what's well." It’s been said in many other ways, such as Voltaire’s “Perfect should never be the enemy of the good.” In other words, we always want more, a better deal, a better cut. But the desire for more cannot be an obstacle to getting something better.

After so many decades, progress

Cashless tolls are not the same things as tearing the tolls down. But to undermine this achievement would be a great error in judgment. Not so long ago were saying, “Nothing changes and it never will.” Well, after all these years, finally, we have change—for the better!

Cashless tolls will tackle 2 out of 3 of the problems that the tolls create, namely:

1. traffic jams,

2. pollution,

3. the dollar (or for GI residents, 9 cents).

With cashless tolls we will have better traffic flow and less pollution. But what about that dollar?

We need a better accounting of the toll money; some of that money should be invested here. I will continue to work on it. But given the millions coming to Grand Island over the next few years (from the museum-like welcome center to the West River Project) it’s hard to complain in the short term.

The bridges are meant to get people over

For anyone who says that traffic flow will not improve and you can’t make 4 lanes go down to 2, I say—come see me next year. You will see. Traffic flow will improve.

Of course, there will still be congestion at times. It’s impossible to completely avoid that on any high-volume road. But if you don’t think we have enough engineers and brilliant minds to improve on what we currently have, well then you have little faith in the genius of American innovation. Cashless tolls have worked elsewhere. They will work here.

What we have right now is just not acceptable. We are doing things the same way we did them in ancient times. We have still have toll takers, like Charon on the River Styx, hand out demanding a fee. That makes no sense in 2017. This technology works. Other communities are fighting for it. And we got it first.

Did you see that Welcome Center—wow!

And that welcome center, what can I say? Did you see the pictures? It’s part Disney Land part Smithsonian. Comparing that to a rest stop or truck stop is like comparing a can of Chef Boyardee to a plate of pasta with hand-picked basil on a Sunday morning in Tuscany. Let me tell you, everyone wanted this center; every community is envious. But we got it!

Working together we can do anything.

Did you see the leaders out there on Tuesday under the bridge? It wasn’t just Governor Cuomo: we had leaders from both sides of the aisle, all levels of government and even outside of government. Governor Cuomo deserves a great deal of credit for being humble and open enough to listen to a small-town Supervisor like me and work together for a creative change. And let me tell you, it's hard to explain how much work went into making it happen. It was no small feat.

But the changes we have secured are about more than just the Governor or me. This was bipartisan (Republican and Democrat); this was grass roots; this was local; this was historic.

You could feel it in the air—the buzz, the energy, the vitality and hope of a community on the rise. It took my breath away just to see so many people under the bridge gathered together smiling and cheering. Grand Island, together, can do anything. Let them laugh; let them curse; let them exaggerate and celebrate our misses, because anyone who can see knows that the bullseye is shredded with hits.


Highest regards,
Nate McMurray