Friday, May 24, 2013 11:47 AM
Published on: Thursday, February 28, 2013
By Holden Wilen
ROCKVILLE – If you build it, they may come, but they may not pay for it.
The state is apparently finding out automatic toll booths on the The InterCounty Connector aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. So far drivers have refused to pay $5,224,174.86 million in tolls during the first year of the ICC’s use from November 2011 through November 2012, according to John Sales, public affairs manager for the Maryland Transportation Authority.
The ICC is the only all-electronic toll road in Maryland, and it uses video tolling. When drivers use the ICC, they pay the toll with an E-ZPass transponder as they pass through toll zones, but if a driver does not have an E-ZPass, cameras take a picture of the license plate and a notice of the toll due is sent within 14 days to the address registered with the license plate by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
“You’ll get a notice in the mail that you traveled on this date, at this time, on whichever facility and this is how much you owe in tolls,” Sales said. “You’ll get that notice and you have 30 days to respond to that notice and pay the video toll rate. If you do not do that after 30 days, that’s when we start to get these outstanding balances.”
During the ICC’s first year of use, there were 2,834,315 noticed video transactions, according to Sales. Six percent of the total transactions for the state – 969,481 transactions – were unpaid after 30 days. Sales noted there was a toll-free period from Nov. 22 to Dec. 4 in 2011.
In 2009, Wilbur Smith Associates made projections for the ICC for MTA and projected $1.26 million in uncollected tolls in fiscal year 2012. The actual amount is more than $3.96 million greater than those original projections.
Sales said notices will continue to be sent to drivers who don’t pay the tolls. If the person continues to not pay the amount due after the 30 days pass, he said the MTA refers the debt to the Maryland Central Collection Unit. Additionally, House Bill 420 was proposed to the House of Delegates in the Maryland General Assembly to address uncollected tolls from video transactions.
“One of the things that the proposed legislation does is if the person does not pay the toll after a 30-day period, we would like to make it a $50 citation that gets tacked onto the video toll that’s due,” Sales said.
Along with issuing citations, Sales said MTA also wants the ability to work with the MVA to suspend or flag a person’s vehicle registration if they continue to not pay the toll.
“The MVA piece would kind of give us the teeth, if you will, needed to get the toll amount that’s due,” Sales said.
Until the legislation is passed, however, it seems MTA is going to continue to send out notices and hope people pay up.