Tollgate removal opens up new sections of the city

       By Steve Cichon

The people of Western New York have been fighting tolls on roads for about as long as there have been roads.

The last tollhouse in Erie County was on Genesee Street, “about a mile from the city line.” This photo was taken in 1914 shortly before it was torn down.

In 1797, early Western New York pioneers began hacking through the wilderness along an ancient Native American trail to create what we now call Main Street, starting at Buffalo Harbor and running to Batavia.

Its early importance as a travel route was underscored during the War of 1812, when the Village of Buffalo emptied out along Main Street as British soldiers torched all but one structure in the village. Many stopped at the home of Erastus Granger (his family farm was donated to become Forest Lawn Cemetery), many continued out to Williamsville and Clarence.

As a thoroughfare traveled regularly by men on horseback, families in carriages, and for-profit stagecoach lines, the road was in constant need of repair.

In 1838, the Buffalo-Williamsville Road was Macadamized, an early form of paving where crushed stones were pressed into the roadway. The work was done by a private company, which in turn collected tolls for the upkeep of the road.

The first tollhouse was built at Main and Delavan when the road opened. Eighteen years later, as the city expanded, the toll house was moved to Main and Steele streets. Steele Street was later renamed Kensington Avenue, and its current intersection with Main Street is part of the complicated Main/198/33 exchange between Sisters’ Hospital and Canisius College.

An 1880 letter to the editor reads like it could have been written by someone today.

“As one draws near the model structure called the tollgate, he will observe the white hand outstretched and the sorrowful, pleading countenance of the gatekeeper asking for eight cents.”

City fathers, who had been investing heavily in the building of a park system, were keenly aware that anyone taking Main Street to Delaware Park was being forced to pay the toll. After years of wrangling, the city eventually took over maintenance of the road and eliminated the toll, making a ride of the park meadow free, but also opening up development in areas like the Parkside and Central Park neighborhoods, which were more desirable now that one didn’t have to pay to get there.

Main Street’s last tollgate was still in operation for another couple of decades. The small cabin just before Getzville Road and what is today Daemen College and Amherst High School collected its last toll in 1899.

The area’s last in-use tollhouse was torn down in 1914 when Erie County decided to pave the Genesee Street in brick all the way to the county line. The Town of Cheektowaga ordered the 1860s tollgate removed. It was about a mile past the city line, near Genesee and Harlem. It was moved there from Genesee and Fillmore when the city’s boundaries were expanded in 1854.

Broadway had been a toll road on the way into Lancaster until it was paved by the state around 1910. The tolls, collected at Broadway and Union, had been used for upkeep of a single lane of planks between Lancaster and Buffalo.

Torn-Down Tuesday: The Ogden tolls and the friendliest toll collector ever

       By Steve Cichon

For the six decades tolls were collected at the southeast line, no one ever liked paying them at Ogden Street to head downtown on the Niagara Thruway from the mainline Thruway.

“The Buffalo entrance to the Thruway,” from a postcard.

When the Niagara Extension of the thruway opened in 1957, the toll was 10 cents to drive through downtown Buffalo. In 1975, it climbed from 15 cents to 20 cents. It was a quarter for most of the ’80s, and it had jumped to 50 cents before the tolls were torn down in 2006.

The only bright spot in paying that toll was getting into the lane of toll collector Edwin Delmonto.

“For many drivers passing through the Thruway’s Ogden Street toll barrier at the city line, Edwin Delmonto is like a ray of sunshine,” wrote Jane Kwiatkowski in the May 26, 1985, Buffalo Magazine.

“His greetings have become a rush hour tradition while his ever-cheerful disposition has won him … the honor of Public Servant of the Week.”

Edwin Delmonto at the Ogden Street toll barrier.

He saw former presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan pass through his toll booth, but it was the people he saw day in and day out that he made an impression on.

“Quite a few people say I brighten their day,” said Delmonto. “One fellow who comes through runs a seminar ‘Getting along with people’ and says he brings me up in the seminar. Priests in the area stand right up in the pulpit and say people should be as friendly as me.”

The Ogden and Black Rock tolls were eliminated when the toll booths were taken down 12 years ago. The Grand Island tollbooths were taken down this year, removing human interaction in favor of a cashless toll system and eliminating any chance of a smile as you pay an I-190 toll ever again.

Ten years without the I-190 tolls

By Steve Cichon

Ah Black Rock and Ogden, we hardly knew ye. The new year will mark a decade since the City of Buffalo had toll booths at its northern (Black Rock) and southern (Ogden) borders along the I-190.

For generations of Buffalonians, it was a bit of a sport to toss the quarter, and later two quarters, into the EXACT CHANGE baskets at the now demolished 190 toll booths.

The tolls were supposed to come down in when the highway was paid for in the late 80’s– but to the outrage of WNYers, you had to pay a toll to get to downtown Buffalo. The outrage built to a crescendo in 2006 when the toll booths were removed.

For some tollbooth memories we dip into the Buffalo Stories archives for these shots.


Its WKBW-TV Channel 7’s zany weatherman Danny Neaverth standing at the Ogden Tolls sometime in the early to mid 80’s.


This story was all about how fast people could drive through the “Exact Change” booths, and still get the coins into the basket.


Reformatted & Updated pages from finding a new home at
Reformatted & Updated pages from finding a new home at

Buffalo in the ’70s: Tolls rise to 20 cents at Black Rock and Ogden

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.