By Steve Cichon
Forty years ago today, July 1, 1975, the tolls at Black Rock and Ogden crept up from 15 cents to 20 cents, leaving many motorists searching their seat cushions for a nickel — and one kind Thruway employee ready to help.
Another now-useless skill that thousands of Western New Yorkers perfected was the slow-down to 10 or 15 miles per hour to toss our exact change into the plastic basket of the toll booth.
The advent of EZPass diminished the importance of this skill, which for some was left entirely in the Stone Age when the Thruway Authority removed tolls from the downtown Buffalo portion of I-190 in 2006.
By Steve Cichon
Anyone who ever threw coins into the “exact change” basket at the Ogden or Breckenridge tolls wondered: How would it know if I threw in the wrong amount?
Motorists were wondering that as soon as the highway opened, and while Thruway officials say cheaters were few and far between, two early cheaters were arrested and fined $50.
The most interesting part of the accompanying article comes in the last paragraph, when it’s explained by Thruway brass that “the traveling public has been sold on the convenience of a super highway and is adjusting to the thought that it should be paid for by its users.”
When the city portion of the I-190 opened on July 30, 1959, cars paid 15 cents to access the road. By 2006, when the Thruway Authority stopped collecting tolls at Breckenridge and South Ogden, the cost had climbed to 75 cents for cars.
“It’s easy to catch toll cheaters”
“The percentage of persons attempting to ‘beat the toll’ in the exact change lanes of the Niagara Thruway’s Buffalo barrier is ‘infinitesimal,’ Division Toll Supervisor William A. Hall said today.”
The toll booths were torn down in 2007.
News reporter Jay Bonfatti could only find one person nostalgic for the tollbooths as they came down, but he did find plenty of rejoicing.