A photo of cars passing through a toll booth.

Photo credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

On Wednesday October 5th, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s congestion-causing tollbooths are all to be removed in a total revamping of the Mass Transit Authority-run toll bridges and tunnels. They’ll be replacing them with open-road tolling, an automatic process using EZPass and cameras, a system widely in use elsewhere in the country and proven to eliminate toll-related traffic slow-downs and accidents. So, good news.

And to add to the good news, the soon-to-be-defunct tollbooths won’t be left to be moldering eyesores. Instead, the city will be having them refashioned into public art, art to help give the City That Never Sleeps a more modern, consistent image.

The New York Crossings Project will be illuminating the toll plazas with veils of lightweight chain-mail mesh that will act as projection screens. Low-energy LED lights will illuminate the screens, programmable into different colors and patterns. Set to coordinate to sunset and sunrise and able to blow in the wind, the bridges and tunnels will come nightly light-shows, while the chain-mail veils will serve a double purpose to hide and protect security equipment and on-site staff.

The governors’ official release speaks of a past era in which many of New York’s projects were built to be as beautiful as they were practical. It cites the New York State Capitol, Grand Central Terminal, the undeniably lovely original Penn Station, and the tile-and-art-heavy stations of the subway system. One could also include the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, both very ornamental. This project is meant to be an addition to that legacy.

The schedule for the conversion is meant to begin immediately. The tollbooths will close between January and December of 2017, and the installation of the LEDs and chain-mail scrims will begin in January. There should be minimal traffic disruption during the process.