Maryland toll authority pushes to modernize law on violators HB1375

March 16, 2012
By Peter Samuel

Maryland's department of legislative services recently wrote starkly that MdTA (the state toll authority) "violates current law and regulations requirements for toll violations process." As a result the state Motor Vehicle Administration had ceased suspending the registration of toll deadbeats at the request of the toll authority.

When the law is an ass it tends to be disregarded.  Current law in Maryland makes it a toll violation subject to a $50 penalty merely to pass a toll point without having paid the toll. The Maryland (Toll) Transportation Authority (MdTA) has in law no discretion as to how it handles that.

Harold Bartlett, chief executive of MdTA tells us that going back several years now - what he calls "a prior administration" - decided the law was too harsh and customer unfriendly so made the decision to initially send such a motorist a Notice of Toll Due plus an administrative fee. Subsequent administrations continued the practice. Most recently it has been explicitly implemented as "Video Tolling."

Only when Notices of Toll Due remain unchallenged and unpaid does the MdTA treat the affair as a Toll Violation.

So far as we can work it out (we'll revise or correct this if we discover differently) this has been going on for up to seven years now - ever since the high speed E-ZPass Only toll lane opened on I-95 Kennedy Highway toll point northbound just past the Susquehanna River Bridge at Perryville. It has also come to apply in all the ungated E-ZPass lanes with cameras at many other toll points.

With the opening of the all-electronic tolled Inter County Connector (MD200) the discrepancy between sensible toll collection procedures and the letter of the law has become quite acute. Without any cash collection on the ICC MdTA offers license plate based tolling or 'video tolling.' (see notice nearby)

It makes no mention of passing the toll point without having paid as being a "violation" as current state law specifies.

Instead it says: "Toll facility customers who do not have an E-ZPass and travel the ICC will be sent a bill in the mail and charged the Video Toll Rate (VRT).  VRTs at all Maryland toll facilities are 150% of the base toll rates with a minimum of $1 and a maximum of $15 above the base toll rate."

But with the Motor Vehicle Administration balking at the disconnect between the law and MdTA's practice on video tolling MdTA has strongly pushing for action in the legislature to  bring the law into line with practice.  Another factor is Maryland's desire to promote interoperability with neighboring states. Agreements to cooperate in collecting tolls from out-of-state drivers requires clear legal authority.

MdTA seems to have got the state legislature to look at modernizing the law to take account of collecting tolls in open road or all-electronic setting. At the agency's request a bill HB1375 called "An Act concerning Vehicle Laws - Maryland Transportation Authority - Payment of tolls has been introduced in the state House. There's due to be a hearing on it in Annapolis Friday March 16.

It might well be characterized as legalizing or legitimizing current practice but it is described with some verbal agility as being: "For the purpose of clarifying procedures of the Maryland Transportation Authority for the collection of unpaid tolls...."

HB1375 lays out clearly that the registered owner of a vehicle that passes a toll point without having paid with cash or another approved method (transponder) shall be sent a "Notice of Toll Due" rather than a Violation Notice.

At least one photograph is needed of the vehicles passage by the toll point that must show the license plate number and state of the vehicle.

The owner has 30 days to pay.

Only when that notice remains unpaid after 30 days is there a Toll Violation and that must be sent within 60 days. There's provision to challenge the Toll Violation charge.

The last page and a half of the eight page bill details arrangements for reciprocity to be negotiated with other states for toll collection.

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/HB1375.htm

text of HB1375:

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/bills/hb/hb1375f.pdf

TOLLROADSnews 2012-03-15

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