Thruway toll booths: More than 60 years of passing through that same little hut

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For six decades, a trip to Grand Island has included passing through one of these blue sheds– the same toll booths have stood at the entrances to the Grand Island bridges and all along the Thruway.

We’re looking back at Thruway toll booths as we say good bye to the Grand Island booths with the introduction of cashless tolls to the Island this Thursday.

The I-190 under construction on Grand Island in 1955. (Buffalo Stories archives)

When the Thruway was built throughout the 1950’s, it was celebrated as a marvel of modern engineering– and written about in places like National Geographic magazine.

People were actually happy to pay the tolls– as the Thruway cut the time to drive to New York City, for example, by 300%.

Paying tolls in 1956 at “the Buffalo entrance” of the New York State Thruway, as appeared in National Geographic. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Driving through toll booths were even something you wanted to tell the folks back home about– There were postcards all along the Thruway, like these two from the Buffalo area for the Williamsville tolls and the 90/190 interchange, the old Ogden tolls.

The last weekend of the Grand Island tolls, March 2018. (Buffalo Stories photo)

And back in 2015, we celebrated a decade without the Black Rock and Ogden tolls…

 

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.

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

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

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.