BOSTON (CBS) – For many drivers, including the governor who takes the Tobin Bridge from the North Shore, open road tolling makes a lot of sense.
There is no stopping at toll booths and less traffic.
“You dramatically reduce the inconvenience for drivers,” Governor Charlie Baker said.
But that is not necessarily the case for all drivers, particularly those who don’t have transponders and opt to use Pay-by-Plate, a system where a photo is taken of the driver’s license plate and a bill is sent to address where the car is registered.
Richard Fay of Lynnfield is one of those drivers. “I was kind of floored,” he said talking about the bill he got for going over the bridge 17 times.
At $3 per toll he expected a bill for around $51. He admits he was late paying the toll and was even prepared for a late fee. But he wasn’t prepared for the bill stating he owed $1059.
“It felt like extortion,” he said.
For Renee Barretto, it was even worse. Her two dozen trips over the Tobin turned into $4,569. “I felt hopeless,” she said.
Renee and Richard both got hit with late fees.
MassDot charges $50 for each toll that is not paid 60 days, another $40 on top of that if it goes unpaid for a total of 120 days. The fees continue to grow the longer the bill goes unpaid.
The I-Team first reported on this problem when we met David Babb of Revere back in February.
An Uber driver, he stands to lose his license and his job for a handful of trips over the Tobin that snowballed into $900 in late fees.
“I can barely afford living,” he said. “I mean $900 for four times over the Tobin Bridge? That’s nuts. This is loan shark stuff,” he said.
State Representative David Linsky believes the fees should be re-evaluated.
“Charging someone an additional $50 or $90 for a $3 toll that is overdue is just ridiculous,” he said.
MassDOT did offer to cut Renee’s bill in half, but even $2,000 is more money than she can come up with and the agency refused to allow her to pay it off monthly.
If she doesn’t pay by the end of March, she’ll lose her license and her job.
“I’m a home health aide. I work for clients and I just have to use my car to get around,” she said.
“It makes no sense whatsoever to have people lose their driver’s license and then in turn their jobs,” Representative Linsky said.
When the I-Team caught up with the governor at the State House, we asked him about the fees and flood of complaints that we’ve heard since our original story aired.
“If there are complaints about outrageous fees, we will certainly look into that, but I’m not aware of any at this point in time,” he said.
It doesn’t look like the state has any plans to change the fee structure.
MassDOT told the I-Team in a statement: “Toll collection policies and the procedures for recovering lost revenue from unpaid tolls are consistent on all roadways in the Commonwealth.”
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