BOSTON (CBS) – More than 50,000 Massachusetts drivers are getting a break from the state that could save them hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. They all racked up huge late fees using the pay-by-plate option on the Tobin Bridge. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told the I-Team the state is offering an amnesty program for all outstanding fines beginning June 1st.
The announcement comes after a series of I-Team reports about desperate drivers facing bills they simply can’t pay. With fines of up to $90 per toll violation, they add up quickly. The longer they go unpaid the more the bills balloon. The outstanding fines mean drivers cannot renew their licenses or their car registrations.READ MORE: Group Raising Money To Send Boy With Leukemia To Disney World
Pollack told the I-Team the fines were unfair. “People have been very concerned that we are just trying to play ‘gotcha’ and impose bill penalties and that was never the intention,” she said.
Beginning next week, the state will send out new bills for only the amount of the actual tolls owed. It is great news for commuters like Jillian Curry of Malden who was on the hook for $6,000 for about $100 worth of tolls. “I’m still kind of waiting and pinching myself and hoping that it’s all going to be true,” she told us.
Curry, a single mother with two young girls, has been without a license since January. Getting her kids to school and getting around on the bus have been a challenge. “I will be so happy when I can drive again,” she said.READ MORE: Newton To Keep School Mask Mandate In Effect After October 1
Also starting in June, the fine structure will also decrease significantly. A $1 late fee will now be added to every unpaid toll after 30 days; an additional $1 after 60 days; and another $1 after 90 days. The fines will be capped at $500 per year.
WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk reports
The open-road tolling on the Tobin Bridge is a pilot program, a testing ground for what is coming in the next couple of years on the Mass Pike. The pay-by-plate option is for drivers who don’t have or don’t want an EZ-Pass transponder. Cameras snap a photo of the driver’s license plate and MassDOT sends a bill to the address where the car is registered. If a driver moves to a new address and doesn’t update the registry, those bills can get lost, and that is often how fees multiply.MORE NEWS: Police Identify 2 Suspects Wanted In Norwood Murder
The news is not good for everyone. According to Pollack, there will be no refunds for the folks who already paid. People like Ann Novicki, a Quincy grandmother, who racked up fines because she thought the initial bills were junk mail or a scam. She borrowed $500 dollars from her kids to pay her fines for three trips over the Tobin. That, she says, is not fair. “It’s nice they are giving someone else a break, but I want a break too. Give me back my money,” she demanded.