Posted in: Commentary,
by Gregg Laskoski on Oct 10, 2013 06:00 AM
The Texas Department of Transportation announced that it is notifying the top toll violators and giving them a deadline to pay their overdue tolls or be included on a list the agency will publish in the next two weeks. Authority to report the names of violators publicly and other powers were provided by Senate Bill 1792 passed in the recent legislative session. Drivers owe more than $27 million in unpaid tolls—money that will be used to pay debt and fund operations on these roads.
Violators could have their names made public and have their motor vehicle registration blocked.
“Ensuring that chronic toll scofflaws pay their share on Texas toll facilities is the right thing to do. It is unfair to ask lawful toll road users to offset the revenue lost to those who abuse the system,” said Larry Phillips, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “I applaud this action and am glad money collected will go toward paying debt and operations.”
“Everyone using our state’s toll roads is responsible for paying to use them. Chronic violators are ultimately taking from the majority of motorists who do things right and pay their tolls,” said Senator Kirk Watson, the author of SB 1792. "The bipartisan support for SB 1792 reflects how strongly the legislature feels about going after toll road abusers who are looking for a free ride.”
The primary targets for collection are the owners of some 28,000 vehicles that have each recorded at least 100 unpaid tolls in a 12 month period. Beginning this week, TxDOT will once again contact, by letter, violators with the largest balances of past-due and unpaid tolls or administrative fees to arrange for payment. Some of these offenders have vehicles with thousands of toll violations. Those who fail to respond to this notice will have their names posted on TxDOT and TxTag websites and shared with the news media. The web listings will include the violator’s name, city and state of residence, number of unpaid tolls and total amount owed in tolls and fees.
In the past, TxDOT has been limited to sending repeated invoices or seeking restitution through Justice of the Peace courts. The new state law provides the agency with significantly more power to collect the unpaid tolls. In addition to publishing the list of top violators, TxDOT also has the authority to:
•Ban vehicles from using TxDOT toll roads with Texas Transportation Commission approval. If stopped by law enforcement, vehicles in violation of the ban can be ticketed and impounded.
•Report the habitual violators to county tax assessor-collectors to potentially block the renewal of the vehicle’s registration.
Motorists with unpaid toll violations should immediately contact the TxTag Customer Service Center at (888) 468-9824 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays. A negotiated settlement amount may be offered as well as a payment plan, if needed.