Thousands of North Texas drivers could have their vehicles impounded or their registration blocked under Senate Bill 1792, legislation Governor Perry is expected to sign.
The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) says there are at least 75,000 vehicles that have each traveled the area’s toll roads without paying 100 or more times.
That adds up to some real money for the NTTA, about $45 million dollars a year that’s not available to use on road projects or to factor into the rates all toll road users pay.
In the past the NTTA has tried to shame the chronic violators, who they call scofflaws, into paying. They’ve published their names.
The NTTA also levied enormous fines that the legislature forced the agency to reduce last session.
This session lawmakers decided to offer a grace period, then lower the boom.
So here’s how it will work.
North Texas toll road violators with 100 or more unpaid toll fines during a year will be notified.
The NTTA’s Michael Rey says they will initially be given 90 days to pay just the past-due tolls in a lump sum or sign up for a payment plan.
“First and foremost you have to get a toll tag to take advantage of this offer,” said Rey. “Then you would pay the lump sum just for the tolls. So that’s an extraordinarily good deal, an interest free loan if you will.”
“Folks who feel like they need a payment plan to stretch it out over 12 months would pay tolls with up to 10 percent (interest),” Rey explained.
If, however, violators still don’t pay the NTTA can get their attention by instructing county clerks to block their vehicle registrations. And the next time those drivers, banned from the toll roads, try to drive on them anyway, their cars can be impounded.
“I think there’s a percentage of folks out there who didn’t want to believe we were actually keeping tabs on the transactions and taking pictures and documenting that and I think this will futher show them that we did,” said Rey.
Rey hopes the new enforcement tools will convince the violators to settle up.
Because this legislation passed with support from two-thirds of the state lawmakers it will go into effect immediately after Governor Perry signs it.