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"HELP" is on the way to CNY Roads, not all are thrilled

Highway Emergency Local Patrol Vehicles presently provides motorist assistance to vehicles traveling on 1485 miles of limited access interstate roadways, parkways, and expressways in New York. (NYSDOT)

Central New York will soon get a new option for roadside assistance, thanks to more than $1 million from the taxpayer.

The NYS H.E.L.P (Highway Emergency Local Patrol) service will aoon be available to help drivers on some of the area's busiest roadways, for no extra charge.

The service was launched in 1994 in an effort to increase safety and to decrease congestion on major roadways by clearing broken-down vehicles from active lanes of traffic, according to their brochure.

Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that $1.2 million would be dedicated to bringing the service to roadways in Onondaga County. The majority of the funds will be provided by the Federal Highway Administration according to Cuomo's office.

"We are proposing to have two trucks operate during the weekday morning and afternoon rush hours on I-81, I-481, I-690 and State Route 695 in the Syracuse area," said Gene Cilento, a spokesperson with NYSDOT. "The goal is to have service begin by the end of the year."

Each HELP operator will be trained and certified in first aid and CPR.

Functions HELP can provide include:

- Changing a tire

- Jump start a battery

-Temporarily repair a radiator hose

- Provide coolant for a radiator

- Provide a maximum of two gallons of gasoline

- Provide a cell phone for the public to make a local call

-Assist emergency service personnel with managing an incident

To have a truck assist you, call 911 and Police will dispatch a truck if one is available.

Contractors will operate the service, however existing roadside assistance businesses are skeptical.

"At least 50% [of our business] are people that are in distress and they are in fear are in a bad spot on the highway," Mike Epolito said, he owns Epolito Towing in Syracuse. "If they are going to get a service for free, they are obviously going to go with that person first. There is no competition for that."

No word yet if trucks will be sponsored by State Farm as they are in other metro areas. HELP presently provides motorist assistance to vehicles traveling on 1,485 miles of limited access interstate roadways, parkways, and expressways on Long Island, in New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley, Buffalo, Rochester, and the Albany Capital District.

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