For years, drivers crossing onto Staten Island had to slow down to flow through toll plazas and pay the toll, but no more. And as our Amanda Farinacci reports — that change brought with it a pleasant surprise for Monday morning commuters.
Ask any Staten Island driver about traffic crossing the Verrazano Bridge — especially during rush hour — and here's what you'll get.
"Horrible," said one driver. "Especially with all this construction on the bridge. It's always a nightmare."
"Pretty terrible," said another "Traffic. Rush hour is pretty terrible."
But Monday, commuters were happily surprised as the so-called "Summer of Hell" kicked off — and it didn't raise hell for those crossing the span during the early morning commute.
"Much faster, there was really no delay at the toll booth," said one pleased customer.
"Cashless tolls; I love it, because you just go through and come back," said another.
The commute was made easier, in part, because drivers no longer have to stop to pay the toll after crossing the span onto Staten Island from Brooklyn.
"I think maybe it makes the traffic go a little bit quicker," said another driver.
"I mean it'll maybe make it a lot quicker going into, Manhattan, but eventually you're gonna hit traffic on the Gowanus," said another. "You're gonna hit traffic coming the other way, so I mean it may speed up a little bit, but psychologically, it's a good thing, for a few minutes."
The bridge switched to cashless tolling this weekend — just in time for Monday's commute — and the effort is being touted as a measure to ease traffic and congestion ahead of the Amtrak "Summer of Hell" maintenance work.
The toll plazas have been all but removed, replaced by these overhead sensors and cameras, which will automatically charge E-ZPass users and bill those without.
"I didn't go over yet, but it's gonna be funny seeing no toll booth," said one driver.
Now drivers we spoke with say it may be difficult to measure the impact of any change on a Monday in the summer, when traffic is notoriously lighter. They say the true test will come in the days and weeks ahead.