New England states MA, NH, ME sign toll enforcement reciprocity agreement
By Peter Samuel
Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire have agreed to treat one another's toll violators according to local toll enforcement rules. The agreement provides for end-of-the-line sanctions when motorists who have used tollroads fail to pay tolls, ignore late notices and violation fees. The reciprocity agreement is one of the first in the country and a major step toward putting in place the enforcement needed for free flow all-electronic tolling. It is an important part of the drive to gain interoperability between toll systems across the country.
The agreement is for one year - a pilot program. Next summer the three DOT secretaries will meet again, and either drop the program, extend the program another year, or make it permanent. There was a commitment in principle to such arrangements July 12, 2010 when the New England Governors' Conference adopted a Resolution to Support Reciprocity of Electronic Toll Collection.
Discussions of how to implement it bore fruit when the three states with the biggest stake agreed on an approach that works within the existing laws of each.
Home state rules apply
In New Hampshire and Massachusetts the final sanction to collect on unpaid tolls and late fees is denial of reregistration at the state motor registry, while in Maine they actually suspend a vehicle registration on unpaid tolls and fees before its normal expiry.
Under the reciprocity agreement reached Thursday (Aug 4) each of the three states will be able to pursue out-of-state toll violators with the home state sanction. Thus Massachusetts Turnpike and the tollroads in New Hampshire faced with Maine motorists who ignore tolls and late notice fees will be able to ask Maine to suspend the motorist's vehicle registration as the final sanction.
Massachusetts motorists who violate the Maine Turnpike by failing to pay tolls, and who ignore violation fees notices from Maine may find there is a 'stop' put on re-registration when their vehicle registration comes up for renewal after Massachusetts acts on a request from Maine. Similarly the New Hampshire the bureau of motor vehicles may put a 'stop' on renewal of vehicle registration if Massachusetts or Maine Turnpike notifies it of outstanding tolls and fees of New Hampshire drivers in those two states.
In a statement from New Hampshire NHDOT Turnpikes Bureau Administrator Christopher Waszczuk is quoted: "The ability to treat all users equally on the New Hampshire Turnpike System is essential."
He said the problem was not huge in scale.
"Only a small percentage of E-ZPass users refuse to pay. These reciprocity agreements will ensure fairness for all users of electronic tolling in all three states."
"Key" to adopting new toll technologies
NHDOT spokesman Bill Boynton: "This agreement will be key as we look ahead to new toll technologies and the seamless nature of traveling from one toll system to another. This really puts us on the forefront in terms of (all-electronic) tolling across the country.
Jeffrey Mullan, Massachusetts DOT secretary is quoted: "These first-in-the-nation agreements allow us to continue to collect tolls more efficiently, to address toll-equity issues and to collect tolls from out-of-state violators."
Mills in Maine major mover
Maine Turnpike Authority's government relations manager Conrad Welzel is credited with brokering the detail of the final agreements. At the top the Turnpike's new chief Peter Mills was the political driving force behind the tripartite agreement - and partly because of a longrunning controversy over how to modernize the major mainline toll plaza located at the southern end of the Turnpike near York where close to half motorists are out of state.
Under the former chief executive Paul Violette the focus was on building a new conventional toll plaza with both cash and open road tolling. The alternative favored by York involves all-electronic.
Open road and all-electronic require enforcement
In either case the Turnpike has open road lanes, which present an invitation to scofflaws to fly through and ignore toll bills - in the absence of followup sanctions for non-payment.
The new Maine Turnpike executive director Peter Mills says the tripartite agreement opens up new possibilities for the York toll point. He's quoted as saying it "changes the calculus for the analysis" of alternatives at York.
Outside New England the E-ZPass group, North Carolina and Florida are working on toll interoperability, an important aspect of which is out-of-state collections and enforcement. And the Alliance for Toll Interoperability is working on "model legislation" to be pushed in the various states to combat the toll scofflaws. Interestingly though the Maine/Massachusetts/New Hampshire agreement works within existing state laws and did not require any new legislation.
copy of the agreement: