Friday, August 01, 2008

"This whole toll system is reaping a whole huge bureaucratic mess."

"Thuggish" Toll Collection Practices Worry Local Toll Opponents

Some North Texas motorists report being billed hundreds for a $1.50 toll

August 1, 2008

By Jim Forsyth
WOAI (San Antonio)
Copyright 2008

Reports of thuggish collection tactics to collect unpaid tolls on a north Texas toll road have San Antonio toll road opponents worried that local motorists will be subjected to 'Gestapo' tactics when they drive on the proposed 281 North toll road when it is completed in 2012, 1200 WOAI news reports.

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reported on numerous north Texas motorists who drove on the new Texas 121 toll road in Collin and Denton Counties north of Dallas. Several motorists who don't have the 'toll tags' which bill them electronically for tolls, drove on the road, in some occasions for just a mile or two, and several months later received bills for hundreds of dollars. One man told the newspaper he received a bill for nearly $700 for driving a few miles on Texas 121.

If a motorist who does not have an electronic toll tag drives on a toll road, a camera will photograph the vehicle's license plate, and a bill will be sent to the registered owner of the car. In the cases of the people involved in the Star-Telegram article, the bills were sent to the wrong address, the charges were registered as 'past due,' and then turned over to a collection agency, which added, in some cases, hundreds of dollars in 'collection fees' to a $2 or $3 bill.

"None of these people did anything wrong," said Terri Hall, the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, an anti toll group.

"They didn't receive their bills because they were sent to the wrong address. And then they get their door banged down by a collection agency to collect some $200 that they owe the state."

The motorists told the Star-Telegram that TxDOT 'should' know their correct address, because they have used the address to renew their car registrations, a job which is also performed by TexDOT.

Hall says the incidents prove that the purpose of toll roads is not to ease highway congestion, but to build a bureaucracy.

"This whole toll system is reaping a whole huge bureaucratic mess."

Failure to pay a toll is a civil fine, not a criminal offense. People who don't pay can have their credit reports damaged, but cannot be arrested.

Hall says it's 'amazing' that TxDOT would allow a collection agency to pile fees and past due charges onto what is in many cases a toll for $1.00, a charge that the motorist was never billed for.

"They're spending more on postage and labor and the 'Gestapo' techniques of the collections agency, than they are to collect the tolls."

The U.S. 281 North tollway will also use a toll tag system and will collect tolls from motorists without the tag in the same fashion.

A TxDOT spokesman said the best way to avoid having hundreds of dollars in fees mount up is to acquire a toll tag...but to help the tolling agency make money with more convenience to the agency...will cost you $20.

© 2008, WOAI:

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