Md. Officials Seek to Fix Loophole That Caused $6.7M in Unpaid Tolls
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LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC)- An E-ZPass loophole is partially to blame for the $6.7 million in Maryland tolls that have gone unpaid over the past 5 years.
E-ZPass lanes on the state’s toll roads are meant to make passing through booths quicker and easier for those with E-ZPass transponders, which automatically pay the fees from prepaid accounts. But motorists who don’t have accounts have been taking advantage of the open lanes and driving through scot-free, the Washington Post reports.
The Maryland Transportation Authority sends letters to offenders, warning that their vehicle registration could be suspended if the debt is not settled. But, according to state law, a $50 citation must also be dished out before the Motor Vehicle Administration can suspend a registration. Since the MTA hasn’t been doling out the citations, a Maryland registration has not been suspended due to unpaid tolls in more than two years.
MTA officials told The Post citations are not issued because it’s actually legal for those without E-ZPass accounts to use the E-ZPass lanes. The practice is called “video tolling,” and it allows motorists without transponders to use the lanes and pay when they get a notice in the mail. Their license plate numbers are recorded as they drive through the booths. Officials say people who choose that option should be given more time to pay before they are penalized.
The problem, of course, lies in the fact that some simply ignore the notice.
The Post report says several car rental companies owe between $80,000 and $200,000 in toll fees. About 15,000 individuals owe more than $500 a piece.
MTA officials are drafting a bill, to be introduced during the current session of the Maryland Assembly, that will make it easier for them to collect the money.
Harold Bartlett, the executive secretary of the MTA, said the legislation would make it so motorists would only be considered violators if a video tolling bill were to go unpaid for 30 days. Then they would be sent a $50 citation with the option to pay or appeal in District Court, and multiple unpaid citations would result in a suspended registration.
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