No More Toll Booths, So What’s Happening to Hudson Valley Toll Collectors?
On March 1st, 2022 it became official: every bridge in the Hudson Valley had converted to cashless tolling. So what's happening to the toll booth workers who used to collect our money every day? The answer is surprising.
Hudson Valley Toll Booth History
It was an end of an era when employees clocked out for the last time on February 28th of this year. Vehicles have been paying to use Hudson Valley bridges since the 1930s, when the New York State Bridge Authority was created. A Mid-Hudson Bridge Fun Fact: before 1970, tolls used to be collected in both directions over the Hudson River.
Toll collectors were coveted jobs, too; when the job posting went up in 1935 during the Great Depression for attendants on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, over 400 people applied for the position. Only eight men were selected.
One of those eight men, Ed Burns, eventually rose to the position of Secretary of the Authority, the modern day equivalent of Executive Director.
For nearly a century there has been toll collectors staffed at Mid-Hudson Valley bridges, though the job has shifted in recent years. From Chris Steber, Public Information Officer for the NYS Bridge Authority:
[Recently] toll collectors were generally hired on a part-time or temporary basis. It was made clear during the interview process that the Authority would be eventually transitioning to cashless tolling. Knowing this, they took the position as a second or temporary job.
Steber went on to explain that while newer hires were part-time, some attendants who had been with the Bridge Authority long-term were able to collect severance or retirement packages. But what about the attendants who wanted to keep working?
Where They Are Now
While there are no longer positions available as toll collectors, the Bridge Authority has created a new position: Security Technician - Bridge (STB). Chris Steber explains:
The security technicians are a mixture of full-time and part-time positions and are mainly staffed by former collectors, who will now take on a more security-oriented role. They will continue staffing the bridges during the hours that toll collectors previously staffed them.
Some responsibilities of the new position includes emergency response, motorist assistance, and security monitoring. While many of these duties were already part of a toll collector's duties, Steber noted that now workers will have more time to concentrate on keeping "our bridges and patrons safe and secure".
Honoring Their Legacy
If you've taken even one trip across a Hudson Valley bridge, you recognize the "Full Service" sign that hangs above every toll booth that takes cash. After its removal, the Bridge Authority used it to help honor both the retiring employees and the toll collectors who were transitioning to their new positions with a signing ceremony.
From Chris Steber:
We honored [retiring workers] during the training session for the new Security Technicians, so that they could be recognized in front of their former colleagues. We also had the former toll collectors who were in the room that day put their signatures and years of service on the “Full Service” sign that used to hang up at the Mid-Hudson toll booth.
Do you want to thank a worker for their service? Mr. Steber has a way to do that, too:
I would suggest you give a thumbs up to our maintenance workers who are out on the bridge each day, maintaining them to the highest standards. You can also say hello to some of our former toll collectors, who recently transitioned to new Security Technician positions and will continue working on-site.
Here's to the next chapter.