Dear Howard Milstein:

2 Jun

I want to thank you for taking time out from your busy land speculation schedule here in western New York to take the reins of the byzantine and anachronistic New York State Thruway Authority.

I don’t say it’s out-of-date because toll roads are yesterday’s news. Instead, I’m referring to the fact that EZ-Pass holders still have to queue up at the toll booths like it was 1955.

I realize that removing tolls from I-90 and I-87 is probably not on the table at this point, but as a frequent traveler up and down the entire stretch of the Thruway, perhaps the state could recognize that paying $22 to get from the Deegan to Ripley is a pretty big chunk of money when one takes free alternatives into consideration. Many other toll systems – largely not in the Northeastern US, but elsewhere – have implemented a system that recognizes the fact that automated toll collection obviates the need for queueing.

Here is an example of how it’s done in Florida. Cars with transponders continue along the roadway at highway speeds, while people paying cash detour to the booths.

Seriously, it’s insane that the Williamsville, Ripley, and Lackawanna tolls booths are all designed to make even people with EZ-Pass queue up. Why? What’s the reason? Quite evidently the technology can support toll collection at 65 MPH without slowing. During the summertime, the busier toll barriers can be backed up for miles, wasting fuel and time for people who just want to travel through this state.

The Toronto area’s private 407 highway is completely automated, where cars without transponders pay by mail, as overhead cameras snap its license plate and send you a bill.

I could go on about the fact that the rest areas are just glorified food courts with toilets, and that no one’s eaten Roy Rogers in 20 years. I could mention the fact that there’s a cruel irony that the free I-90 in Pennsylvania has a smooth surface while the surface on the New York portion just after the tolls is ripped up like a Buffalo side road in the springtime. I could even mention the fact that other states, like the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, sell toll-related sponsorships to private corporations to help fund Turnpike operations there, helping to keep tolls down.

I think people wouldn’t be so peeved about paying the tolls if the privilege of holding an EZ-Pass transponder conveyed an actual benefit in time and fuel.

Furthermore, the idiotic way in which the exits are numbered should go. It’s silly that we have exits like “48A” because the Thruway tacked on a Pembroke exit between Batavia and Transit Road. The mile markers on the Thruway tick down the mileage from the New York City line. The exit numbers should follow that same pattern. It’s done in other states and helps people keep track of their progress, and makes it easier to add and subtract exits from the roadway.  I once wrote to the Thruway about this, and they replied that this couldn’t be done because the road follows I-87 and I-90. Seems to me this isn’t an impediment to the mile markers following that change.

Good luck to you in your new position, and I hope to see some activity on the properties you own in Niagara Falls sooner rather than later.

With regards,


16 Responses to “Dear Howard Milstein:”

  1. Ward June 2, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    You might have mentioned that, on a drive to Atlanta, the only tolls you pay are on the NYS Twy ($3.15) and WV ($1.25). There must be a secret; perhaps Mr. Milstein can unravel it.

  2. Rob June 2, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Hey Ward maybe WV Sen. John Raese can look into this?

  3. Charles June 2, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    Great suggestions.  That said, don’t hold your breath. NFR and related companies, are nothing more than holding companies.  The promise of NFR has been broken.  Many times.  The Business week review  is a fair assessment of the problems in Niagara Falls, which are in no small part attributable to the speculator Milstein. Frankly, I am disappointed that the Governor would give this robber baron such a high horse to sit upon. 

  4. Hank June 2, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Hey Rob—maybe you could stop flapping your pie hole and re-read the post. I didn’t read a word of what Alan wrote that isn’t the truth. And Ward’s right. Except for the 1.25 in WV, I don’t pay a toll between Hickory, NC and the NYS Line. The roads—-from NC to the NYS Toll gate are pretty damn good.

    Then there’s a sign “Welcome to NYS”, and there should be a smaller sign underneath that says, “NOW GET YOUR FUCKING WALLET OUT—YOU WANNA DRIVE—-PAY US!!! And The road goes to SHIT right after you get your toll ticket. Perhaps the Dumbocrats on the Thruway authority ought to give up their Jet, the EZ Passes for themselves and every System Employee, and use the savings TO FIX THE FUCKING ROAD.

    BTW, If you stop at the rest stop on the West Virginia Turnpike, you have choices like Cinnabon, Subway, Sbarro’s Pizza, Etc. Not the bullshit you find on the Thruway. Take your politics out of your pocket for 10 minutes, reverse your terminal rectal-cranial inversion, and take a look around.

  5. Black Rock Lifer June 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Milstein has been a disaster for Niagara Falls. I worked up there for 10 years and saw first hand how his operation devasted the already challenged neighborhoods. Just like the false promise of the casino Milstein actually brought more blight and disinvestment with no regard for the people that lived there.

  6. Mike In WNY June 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Prince Cuomo delivers in his usual royal manner, the taxpayers get royally screwed.

  7. jimd June 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    On the other hand, moving my son to Chicago last summer cost me about 30 bucks in tolls. Ohio, Indiana and Illinois are a fuck in the eye. Their roads blow too. Taking the Canadian route this winter to Port Huron was cheap and a much nicer ride.

  8. RaChaCha June 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    WTF — what genius recommended this appointment?! The two most important pieces of State economic infrastructure in WNY are SUNY and the Thruway. Well, we all know how much Albany and downstate have fallen all over themselves to help with UB2020 (NOT!), and how they milked WNY for toll revenue long past both the statutory expiration date and teat-drying-up date. And now they propose someone to head the Thruway Authority who’s already clearly shown how much disdain he has for WNY by his ongoing MF’ing of Niagara Falls–?! I say ongoing as in the last year Chuck Schumer had to call in some chits just to get this guy to simply sit his pompous ass down and meet with Niagara Falls Mayor Dyster. Just read this sorry, sordid history posted a year ago on the Buffalo News blog, Niagara Views:

    WNYers and their State-level electeds should be personally offended by this nomination, and give the Guv a private and/or public (if necessary) N.F.W. I’d love to know what Niagara County electeds such as Maziarz, Grisanti, new Assemblyman John Ceretto, and Mayor Dyster think of this. Dare I say I’d even be interested in what the Niagara Falls Reporter has to say about this — nothing on their web site yet, but it’s a while before the bars close…

    Is no one else seeing this as another example of WNY getting royally screwed by Albany & downstate — thinking we’re either too dumb or too distracted with petty political squabbling to realize what’s being foisted on us–? Carl, where are you?? Folks should be Mad As Hell about this!!

  9. Alan Miller June 3, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I see you managed to write a post that includes toilets. I am looking forward to your post about Weinergate. If it helps you can explain how it is different from what Chris Lee did.

    • Alan Bedenko June 3, 2011 at 6:03 am #

      Perhaps it’s different because (a) nothing’s been proven (a picture of an erection in underpants with no face to go with it; (b) yfrog can easily be manipulated; (c) he wasn’t hunting for trannies on Craigslist; and (d) Weiner is completely off-topic for a post about the Thruway.

      I know that Republicans are salivating over the fact that Weiner may have sent a photo of his clothed erection via Twitter, but frankly even if it happened, it won’t remotely harm Weiner’s political career. He’s already perceived to be a brash and humorous asshole, so this – even if true – won’t register a blip. Hey, soliciting prostitutes didn’t get Vitter to quit, fucking the campaign staff didn’t get Ensign to quit for over a year, and Larry Craig was soliciting a happy ending in a restroom and stuck around thanks to the unique “wide stance” defense.

      What Chris Lee did was quite different. Also, quite different from anything to do with the Thruway.

      But I’m sure you can find myriad websites where the Weiner issue is the most important thing, ever. I just sort of don’t care because no one can prove what’s going on.

  10. Joe Genco June 3, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Thanks for calling this the joke it is, Alan,

  11. Jesse June 3, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    While I’m all for clearing out as much useless gov’t nonsense as possible, and the NYS Way Of Doing Things is obviously broken… tolls to pay for road construction and maintenance is probably the ‘best’ sort of tax there is – people who use the thing pay for it.

    Good luck to Milstein in getting NYS TA to change.  Not holding my breath.

  12. TDS June 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    (a) nothing’s been proven (a picture of an erection in underpants with no face to go with it; (b) yfrog can easily be manipulated; (c) he wasn’t hunting for trannies on Craigslist; and (d) Weiner is completely off-topic for a post about the Thruway.

    Nobody proved Carl Paladino sent the horse-porn e-mail, either, but you still ran it as gospel.

  13. TDS June 3, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Carl admitted himself that he sent the emails. Ever fucking look something up before you make a claim, pal?

  14. Pauldub June 3, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    @Alan – The Weiner comment is on topic because Milstein is a dick. He screwed Niagara Falls, and fully expect he will be skimming the tolls the moment he takes over.

  15. King Kong June 5, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Comment number 14 was me, I’m not sure how it went in under TDS.

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