Skip to comments.Confusion leads to heavy toll fines
Posted on 11/16/2010 10:15:45 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
AUSTIN (KXAN) - KXAN Austin News has uncovered dozens of cases in which unpaid tolls have turned into bills as high as tens of thousands of dollars.
Toll roads first came to Central Texas four years ago. There are now a total of five tollways, including Texas Toll 130 in East Travis and Williamson counties.
The bottom line is the toll bills were not paid, and they ended up becoming criminal cases.
Although drivers can pay with cash at most tolls, use their TxTag or Pay by Mail as the signs say, some drivers contend the last option poses a problem because they never get bills in the mail.
TxDOT on the other hand, says those drivers used the toll roads for months, even years, and never made an attempt to pay or track down their bill.
Some toll bills cost as much as a new car. Nearly $27,000 dollars for Howard Crebo.
"I'm just dumbfounded," Crebo said.
More than $24,000 for Jacquelynn Mires.
"It was like, 'No way,' " said Mires.
Some $23,000 plus for Andrea Bosma.
"I wanted to pass out," she said.
In court, each agreed to monthly payments and the court reduced fines to less than $5,000. Sounds like a good deal? It's still much more than the $700 to $900 they originall racked up.
"Sometimes it just leaves me speechless," said Crebo.
TxDOT says each unpaid 50-cent toll will increase to $448.50 dollars within 200 days and land the violator in court. The additional charges pay for administrative, invoice, violation and Justice of the Peace fees.
"When it gets to the point of having to take a toll case to court, we're talking about lawyer's time, court reporter's time, a judge's time. All of the folks that are involved in the justice system. Their paychecks have to be paid, too," said TxDOT Spokesperson Karen Amacker.
It still doesn't sit right with drivers like Carl Benton.
"I don't see how they can do it. It's worse than loan sharks," Benton said.
Benton and those who agree with him say the higher fines are unfair because they never received bills in the mail, despite the option to "Pay By Mail."
"There's glitches in everything. I don't know why they're not getting sent out, but they're not," said Benton.
"Anything is possible. Things can get lost in the mail, and when that happens - the same as you would do if you noticed your electric bill didn't arrive or your credit card didn't arrive. We need people to pick up the phone and call us," said Amacker.
TxDOT stands by its third-party billing company and says most problems are a result of driver error.
Problems like not having a correct address on file with the DMV, not having enough money on a pre-paid TxTag account, not having a TxTag in the right place or having a TxTag account linked to an expired or closed credit card.
Some drivers have also said there's confusion over two different toll operators - TxDOT bills for State Highways 130 and 45, and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority bills for extension 183A.
"People need to be proactive and not ignore things that come in the mail," said CTRMA Spokesperson Steve Pustelnyk.
Both CTRMA and TxDOT say bills are clearly marked and ask drivers to take personal responsibility in making sure they are paid.
"Most of our customers pay every day. They expect that we're not ignoring the people who are trying to get away with not paying, and so we have to take some action," said Pustelnyk.
Still, many who've received fines say they would have paid and on time, had they known.
"Some people, yes, I know are trying to get out of it, but some of us are not and still getting screwed," said Bosma.
This Thursday, Nov. 18, the Texas Transportation Commission will be meeting to talk about toll road fines and violation notification.
Many drivers we spoke said they don't plan to use the toll roads ever again.
To find out if and how much you owe in fines, you can call 1-888-GO-TX-TAG.
Rick Perry’s wet dream
KMA Steve. It's a government/leftist business scam.
I check my mail as often as I check my TV. And I got rid of the noise-box when I got rid of the last ex-wife.
As always, I check with an attorney before doing anything rash.
Yeah, it’s nuts, but who in their right mind drives a toll road for months without checking to see if they should have paid? That’s nuts, too.
I accidentally got on 183-A when coming home from my mother’s funeral and took the first exit once I realized my error. There are no toll booths here and, while there are warning signs, the paths to take 183 (no-toll) and 183-A (toll) were confusing to me.
There was no place to make immediate restitution but when I got a bill in the mail a couple of weeks later, my charge had become $6.80, thanks to “administrative costs”. I would have gladly paid $.50 at the time if they had only provided a basket to pitch it into as there are on other area toll roads.
The whole things smelled like a scam to me. I avoid toll roads whenever possible except in long interstate travel where the toll road is clearly the best option.
Many people do in TX.The state has a habit of sending bills to the wrong addresses even though you have lived there for over 5 years.Strange HUH!Just got off the phone with these toll road scam artist and they admitted it was their mistake.Tolls roads are the biggest ripoff scam in Texas.
Right,they send the bill to the wrong address and blame you.Been there done that my friend.
I personally hate paying tolls but it takes too long to get anywhere on the feeders. All dollar issues can be taken care of on-line or in person at one of the toll plaza offices. My issue: Had rental car last week - remembered to whip over and pay cash. They had 3 employees working at 11 p.m. and almost no traffic on road. Big waste of money IMO.
I would suggest getting a TxTag to avoid the Bill-by-Mail administrative costs. You never know when you might be staying in Houston or the Metroplex and need to use one of their toll roads.
It's always easier to blame the public. TxDot seems to be up to their old tricks.
It looks like pay-by-mail is the most profitable alternative for the state.
The third-party collection is definitely a rip-off, especially since pay-by-mail is the only option (aside from a TollTag). A friend's son drove on a toll road a few times, and there was no bill or any notice until a collection agency called.
Further investigation revealed that they were using an out-of-date car registration database, and sending the bills to a previous address. TxDOT confirmed they had the correct address, but the third-party biller didn't.
The penalties were waived and only the tolls were paid. And then a few months later, it happened again. The third-party biller even confirmed their record of the previous billing problem -- but they still sent the new bill to the wrong address. Once again, the penalties were waived.
Now, my friend's son has a TollTag. The tolls are a lot cheaper anyway.
The third-party biller gets more money if the bill goes to collections (there's a $40 penalty, per toll). So, they have a vested interest in "making mistakes".
Yup. And now that my fellow Texans have once again re-elected RINO Perry, We're in for a lot more of them over the next few years. Will anyone be surprised when Perry finally does get the boot, and he goes on to be a multi-million dollar "consultant" with one of the companies in on this scam?
The rub with the EZ Tag is you have to pay IN ADVANCE. I just keep a rubber banded wad of dollar bills in the car and use those.