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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
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First penalty notices for unpaid tolls in mailboxes today
SEATTLE – Registered vehicle owners who haven’t paid their tolls within 80 days or more will be mailed civil penalty notices beginning this week. The notices are part of the state’s new enforcement process to help collect overdue toll bills accrued after crossing the Tacoma Narrows and State Route 520 bridges.
“This new enforcement program is designed for the unique nature of our photo tolling system,” said Toll Division Director Craig Stone of the Washington State Department of Transportation. “The new process strengthens one of the main reasons we’re tolling these bridges – to pay for them. This effort allows us to put collected tolls, fees and penalties back into each bridge program.”
WSDOT, which manages the state’s two tolled bridges – SR 520 across Lake Washington and the Tacoma Narrows – will mail the first civil penalty notices to registered owners of vehicles that crossed either bridge more than 80 days ago but have not paid the toll. The notices will include an initial toll amount, a $5 reprocessing fee for each reminder bill plus an added $40 civil penalty for each unpaid toll transaction. Those registered vehicle owners will have up to 20 days to respond to WSDOT with payment or to dispute the civil penalty.
“Don’t wait if you receive a notice of civil penalty—you need to act,” Stone said. “You have two options: pay the civil penalty or, if you think you are not responsible for it, dispute the civil penalty in writing or request a hearing.”
The penalty notice includes a photo of the license plate for each unpaid toll and lists the date, time and location of each bridge crossing. Vehicle owners who receive a notice should carefully follow instructions to pay or dispute the toll. Vehicle owners may request a hearing with a state administrative law judge who presides over WSDOT’s toll enforcement hearings.
“This new toll enforcement process helps ensure tolls get paid, that the system is fair and that the money collected goes back to the bridge programs,” Stone said. “The civil penalty process also gives vehicle owners one last chance to dispute a toll if they believe they aren’t responsible for it.”
Hearings will take place at a public court in Fife or at the Good To Go! Customer Service Center off I-5 in north Seattle. Unlike traffic court, this process does not allow toll enforcement judges to reduce penalty amounts or unpaid toll amounts owed – they make a judgment on whether the vehicle crossed the bridge and that the penalty notice names the vehicle’s legal owner.
Registered vehicle owners found liable then have 10 days to pay the tolls and all accrued fees and penalties. If the tolls, fees and penalties remain unpaid after this time, a hold will be placed on the vehicle’s license renewal and the debt is sent to collections.
More detailed information can be found on the Web, including a video about the new legal process and answers to common questions.
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