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

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

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.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.