NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With LaGuardia being rebuilt and a new Penn Station in the works, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided to take aim at the city’s nine MTA bridges and tunnels.

“We want to improve them in five ways; reduce the traffic, enhance the security, hardening and remediation, conservation, and public art,” he said.

By January, toll booths will be replaced with automatic tolls in an effort to ease traffic on some of the nation’s most congested roads. Open road tolling will “significantly enhance traffic flow,” the governor’s office said. The system will automatically charge E-ZPass users, and send a bill to the owners of non-E-ZPass vehicles. 

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, that means drivers won’t have to zig-zag to get into the correct lane, or suffer in line behind people paying with cash.

“This automatic tolling is going to have an impact on virtually every commuter in a car,” the governor said.

Penalties for those who won’t pay will be stiff, and what will be collected will make up for the losses.

“This is a proven way to do it,” Cuomo said, “It will save 21 hours of drive time every year.”

Drivers seemed to agree.

“It causes a lot of traffic just to stop at the booth,” one commuter said.

Or as Mike Pazymino said.

“Less hassle, less time.”

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Tunnels will be getting a facelift too.

By next summer retractable barriers will be installed at tunnel entrances to keep out flood water. Tunnels will also be equipped with “increased submersible pumping capacity” to protect against storm surges and withstand a ‘500-year-flood.’

Security will be beefed up with sensors, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

“Sensors that are reading license plates, and testing state of the art facial recognition software,” the governor said.

The technology will also be in place at airports and transit hubs to include the Penn-Farley Complex, to create a system-wide security plan.

Colored LED lights will turn structures into art, and the governor said the money has already been appropriated.

Five-hundred million is coming from the MTA’s capital plan. The rest will come from federal dollars awarded after Superstorm Sandy, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

Some transportation advocates like Nick Sifuentes of the Riders Alliance worry the MTA is putting big bucks into things that are good, but not top priorities.

“We need to start with commuter rail, subways, and buses first, and then we can move on to these kids of projects that will do things like light up our bridges,” he said.

The governor and the MTA promised that there will be progress across the board, speeding up commutes on roads, and rails while throwing in beauty as a bonus.

The New York Crossings Project will include the Henry Hudson Bridge, Whitestone Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, Triborough Bridge, Queens Midtown Tunnel, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge. The LED lighting plan will also be extended to the George Washington Bridge which is operated by the Port Authority.

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