Tollway drivers get grace period

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Authority gives scofflaws 90 days to pay before tougher rules start

North Texas toll violators have 90 days to settle up with the North Texas Tollway Authority before new consequences go into effect.

The Texas Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 1792, establishing new toll enforcement tools that target drivers who have made a habit of skirting the required payments and have pushed the total outstanding toll balance to $58 million.

The law also gives drivers a 90-day grace period in which they would be exempt from administrative fees on unpaid tolls. After Sept. 14, the new enforcement tolls go into effect, bringing stronger punishments to drivers.

According to Michael Rey, tollway authority public information officer, there are more than 79,000 drivers who meet the parameters of habitual violator with at least 100 outstanding tolls and two notices of nonpayment, and are on the NTTA’s list. Of those about 14,000 are Denton County residents.

Rey said the agency is also offering the grace period to others.

“There may be people who have 66 outstanding tolls instead of 100, and we want to give them the same opportunity to clear up their outstanding tolls as well,” he said.

Toll authority officials will be sending notices to all habitual violators eligible for the grace period. For those who don’t receive a notice and have unpaid tolls, they may be contacted by Southwest Credit, a collections firm. Once a Toll Tag account is set up, drivers can arrange payment with the reduced rates of the grace period.

Rey said he does not understand exactly why drivers have let their toll fees skyrocket, nor did the agency do any sort of surveying to find out.

“I think there is kind of a group of people who think, ‘I don’t believe they can catch me.’” Rey said. “These are things we document with cameras and store the toll transactions until they are paid for. We very well can document whenever people are on our roadways.”

Rey said NTTA’s was the first system of its scope to go all electronic, a move finalized in 2010, and there are lessons to be learned in operating it.

For those who do not pay their tolls by the end of the grace period, the consequences can include a registration block on their vehicle and an order prohibiting them from driving on NTTA roads. Those who violate that order face a Class C misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $500. Those who still drive on NTTA roads can end up with their vehicle impounded.

“If you pay your entire amount, you are just liable for tolls,” Rey said. “If you allow this to lapse, you are liable for tolls and fees. We have also offered payment plans up to one year, the tolls plus 10 percent of the tolls as an administration fee. I don’t know how to make it more reasonable than that.

“For people who have overlooked, ignored or otherwise not taken care of these, this is a great opportunity.”

For more information, call 972-818-6882 or visit www.ntta.org.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.

 


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