BOSTON (CBS) – There is no more stopping and no jockeying for the correct lane. Open road tolling has made driving over the Tobin Bridge easier.
If you don’t have an E-Z Pass transponder, there’s no problem. The state will take a picture of your plate and send you a bill. It’s a system called Pay-by-Plate.
But, according to David Babb of Lynn, it’s not smooth sailing for everyone.
“I think it’s ludicrous,” he told WBZ-TV.
Babb says he went over the Tobin about four times last fall. At $3 a trip, he expected a bill for around $12.
“When the first bill came it was $250. It also said it was the third bill that they sent. It was the first one I ever received,” he said.
Babb appealed, but the appeal was rejected by MassDOT, the state’s department of transportation which oversees the tolling system. While he was appealing he got another bill, this time for $899.
“This is loan shark stuff,” he said.
Mina Kroij of Lynnfield had a similar experience.
When she got her bill, she thought it was a scam.
“It was $1,500 and they told me that if I don’t pay, they are going to stop my registration. I don’t know how they get away with it,” she said.
Both Kroij and Babb got hit with late fees.
MassDOT charges $50 for each toll that is not paid in 60 days and another $40 on top of that if it goes unpaid for another month.
“To me that’s highly punitive,” said Mary Connaughton, who works for a government watchdog agency and also served on the Massachusetts Turnpike board. “That makes the IRS look like philanthropists.”
Connaughton loves the idea of cashless tolling and believes it should be expanded to other toll roads. But she said before that expansion, MassDOT should cut back on those fees.
“In the early stages of cashless tolling they should err on the side of being generous to the driver because people need to get accustomed to this,” she said.
This is not just an occasional driver getting hit with these fees.
The I-Team obtained records from MassDOT that show in just four months last year, the state charged $8.5 million in late fees for those who use Pay-by-Plate.
While that is a hefty figure, the state only collected $1.2 million, often agreeing to settle for lesser amounts.
Kroij agreed to a settlement.
“I so I had to settle for $409 for going over the bridge 30 times. I don’t know where they got that number but that’s what they offered and I thought it was better than $1,500,” she said.
But Babb does not want to settle.
He wants to pay the toll and only the toll. “I’m not going to pay it. No way. I can barely afford living, I mean $900, that’s nuts,” he said.
MassDOT would not talk to the I-Team on camera, but a spokesperson said they want to encourage the use of transponders.
Mina Kroij got one.
But David Babb told the I-Team he is concerned about the number of data breaches and doesn’t feel comfortable giving out his credit card number.
“It’s America. It’s a free country. I get a choice,” he said.
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