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July 12, 2012

Tollway authority wants to 'boot' cars of motorists who don't pay tolls

Parkwars@gdickson

ARLINGTON - North Texas Tollway Authority officials made headlines this week when they released the names of nearly 26,000 motorists who had refused to pay 100 or more tolls. But the agency's crackdown on scofflaws is far from over.

The Plano-based tollway authority also plans to ask the Texas Legislature's permission to begin "booting" cars owned by people who haven't paid their tolls. The system would work much like enforcement actions in many cities with parking meters. If someone gets tickets at expired meters and refuses to pay the fines, a boot order is issued and the next time the vehicle is caught in a parking space a giant, metal object is clamped onto one of the vehicle's wheels - making it impossible to drive away.

The offender then has to go to court and make good on the past-due account before getting the boot removed from his or her ride.

"It's probably a last resort, but for those who have seen 'Parking Wars,' it's probably an effective tool," tollway authority executive director Gerry Carrigan told members of the Regional Transportation Council Thursday during a meeting in Arlington. Carrigan was referring to the A&E television show "Parking Wars," which follows officers along on parking enforcement patrols that often lead to conflicts with stressed-out car owners.

Photo: Philadelphia.grubstreet.com

The tollway authority also plans to ask the Lege permission to block annual vehicle registration renewals of those who refuse to pay their bills on the Dallas-Fort Worth tollway system. Such a practice is already in place in Houston's Harris County, but in North Texas legislative action is required because the tollway authority crosses the boundaries of four counties.

Car owners who repeatedly refuse to pay tolls also would be "banned" from using the tollway system in the future, and the most egregious users could face lawsuits.

Cracking down on those with past-due tolls has become an issue since 2010, when the entire tollway system was converted to all-electronic. Most regular users place a TollTag on their windshield, and deduct tolls through a pre-paid account. Others can then simply drive the tollways, and a camera system takes pictures of their license plates and sends them a bill. But that camera system has left the tollway authority vulnerable to motorists who use the pavement with no intention of ever paying.

An estimated $12.5 million in past-due tolls is outstanding, officials say.

Regional transportation leaders support the tollway authority's stepped-up collection efforts.

Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said his staff recently heard support for cracking down on scofflaws during public meetings in which the need for additional transportation funding was discussed. One controversial topic point was the possibility that annual registration fees might be raised to increase revenue for road work and other transportation projects.

"What we heard was, why aren't you guys enforcing what' s already out there before you ask us for more?" Morris said. "Why don't people have car insurance? How do people drive around with an unregistered  vehicle? Why don't they have driver's licenses?"

Fort Worth Transportation Authority board member Gary Cumbie added: "These are not people just beating an agency out of its money. This is the region's money. This is money used to build our transportation needs. It's our money."

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Comments

Skeptical

Of course, if people actually paid the tolls on time, the amount owed would be considerably less (there's no way that 8,366 toll transactions would be $179,596.43 since that would make every toll transaction $21.47).

I travel on the region's tollroads from time to time, and I've never seen a toll booth with a $21.47 toll (and you will notice that the #2 person on the Top 100 actually has more toll transactions but owes $40K less).

So, if $12.5 million in unpaid tolls is outstanding, is that really more like $1.25 million in actual unpaid tolls and $11.25 million in administrative fees and penalties?

Graham B

Just execute the person with the highest unpaid toll balance, I bet all the others will pay up. It works for the Taliban and isn't that the type of church-run state the Tea Party is going for? Oh, and make women wear burkahs too when on a NTTA road.

Graham B

What someone needs to do in protest is buy a junker that runs for a few hundred bucks, don't give your name to the seller, don't transfer the title. Spend a day going back and forth racking up 'transactions' to get on the list and let them boot a $750 car for $20,000 in fines and leave the thing. Best collection they will get is selling the thing to the scrap yard for $250 and they will have to write off the rest. It will cost them way more than they will ever make back and teach them a good lesson. Taking people's money by charging sky high fees is just as criminal as not paying tolls.

23LoneStar

Here's a much better idea - "boot" the NTTA out of business. We're going to be paying tolls on virtually every road in the Metroplex. NTE Mobility Partners, the overseers of the unfinished SH121/183 and I-635 projects, is now selling toll tags for that unwanted fiasco. In case you missed it, NTE Mobility Partners is largely a public relations shell for a consortium of Spanish companies (Cintra , Bluebonnet Contractors LLC and Weber LLC, all subsidiaries of Madrid-based Farrovial) and Meridiam, a French investment front for Credit Agricole and a creation of AECOM. The last member of the group is the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System...go figure. The bottomline is that Texans are going to be paying Spanish and French companies tribute forever because we allowed unelected clowns to deal for a project on which we were never consulted, didn't want, didn't need and couldn't afford. Yeah, we got short-term jobs but sold our future to foreign companies for them. We also got a second transportation tax (roads are part of the tax you pay every time you full your gas tank) at a time when few Texans can afford yet another financial burden to largely stagnant personal income. Can anyone say "American Spring"?

Avoidthetollroadsliketheplague

Would this take effect moving forward, or for anyone who has not paid their tolls? If they are going to have tolls then it should be mandatory to have at least one toll booth where you can pay cash. It would be nice if there was a way for individuals who oppose this idea to come together against the Tollway Authority. It does not seem that the fine for not paying a 1.00 toll should be able to escalate to the ridiculous high amount the fines are.

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