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Maryland bill gives teeth to video toll collection

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

Marylanders who don't pay their tolls may find themselves unable to drive under a recently passed measure that cracks down on toll scofflaws.

Maryland Transportation Authority Executive Secretary Harold Bartlett said the state lost out on $6.7 million in unpaid tolls between fiscal 2008 and 2012. That happens when people go through so-called video tolls where a camera takes a picture of their license plate and sends them a ticket in the mail.

If a Marylander doesn't pay the toll, he or she can be assessed a $50 fee, but if he or she doesn't pay that, there isn't much else the state can do. That's what the legislature's 2013 bill, effective July 1, changes.

"Probably the best remedy in the bill is if you don't pay the toll or civil citation, we are able to flag your registration -- not the license, but registration," Bartlett said. "Once you amass $1,000, we suspend your registration, which means you can't drive your car."

The 18-mile Intercounty Connector toll road that runs between Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg and I-95 in Laurel exclusively uses electronic tolling, either through E-ZPass or video tolling. Drivers using E-ZPass face a maximum toll of $4, while that increases to $6 for those without the passes, which Bartlett said helps cover the cost of mailing the tickets.

Drivers who breeze through the E-ZPass lanes of other toll roads without a pass would also face the video toll fee.

But if a driver from out of state receives a toll and doesn't pay it, all Maryland can do is refer the debt to its internal collection agency, which doesn't have the power to suspend the registration of drivers from other states.

The bill also changes that, allowing Maryland to enter into reciprocal agreements with other states to go after toll scofflaws who cross state lines.

Another idea that was toyed with, but ultimately stripped from the final bill, would have created a so-called wall of shame, where the state would publish the names of people who skipped out on tolls.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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