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After long delay, bridge toll fines are in the mail

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Sep. 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm with No Comments »
September 26, 2011 5:24 pm

The state resumed Monday mailing out $52 fines to drivers who didn’t pay tolls when crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge this summer.

Computer glitches that arose during the conversion to a new tolling contractor in February caused some people with electronic tolling accounts, known as Good to Go!, to be improperly fined. The state stopped issuing the fines as a result, creating a backlog of 50,000 potential tickets.

The Washington State Department of Transportation and its Texas-based contractor, Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp., have been working out the kinks as they’ve encouraging Good to Go! customers to check and update their license plate numbers, credit cards and account balances. With the updated information, the agencies have charged regular tolls to many accounts and dropped the fines using automatic cross-checking.

In a final effort to root out improper fines, WSDOT has directed ETCC to manually review all potential infractions before mailing them out. Janet Matkin, a WSDOT spokeswoman, said it’s too early to say how many fines will be sent out until that review has concluded. It expects to send about 500 infractions a day to the Washington State Patrol for mailing. The earliest of those will arrive in mailboxes Tuesday.

“We’re taking every measure we can to ensure that” the infraction is legitimate, Matkin said.

The state issued about 26,000 notices following the conversion but those were either converted to tolls or dismissed following complaints. The backlog of potential infractions was larger, but the state dismissed some of them because it couldn’t mail them out within the required 60 days. WSDOT estimates the delay cost the state more than $200,000 in lost revenue, but Matkin said ETCC will have to pay that money. In addition, ETCC will forego nearly $2 million through June it’s owed under the contract due to other delays and problems.

Those fines being mailed out now are for infractions that have occurred since late July.

WSDOT had planned to start mailing the infraction notices earlier. Matkin said the primary reason for the delay was  because too few people had updated their account information.

In December, the state plans to launch photo tolling that gives drivers a third option to pay a bridge toll. It will also do away with the $52 fine for not paying a toll.

People who dispute a fine they receive in the mail should call 1-866-936-8246.

Twitter: @TNTchill

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