BALTIMORE — After several months of no notices, Maryland drivers are receiving video toll violations in the mail.
The Maryland Transportation Authority switched to cashless tolling last March and temporarily paused billing between March and October of 2020 to provide financial relief.
Customers are now receiving bills for violations, some dating back to last Spring, as well as civil penalties for overdue violations.
The MDTA E-ZPass customer service center has since been flooded with calls. Drivers report a constant busy signal or calls dropping.
“Gosh, I called several times that night it was just so frustrating. I think it was a recording I got for a nonworking number or something, it just went nowhere and the frustration level went up and up and up,” said Ginnie Freeman.
Freeman had been calling about a notice she received for a missed toll last May. The toll amount was for $4 plus a $25 late penalty.
“We were being charged $29 for crossing the bridge,” said Freeman.
However, Freeman had paid the $4 charge back in December. She tried calling to get it straightened out and couldn’t reach anyone.
“This isn’t just happening to us or just the community on the Eastern Shore but it’s happening to everybody,” Freeman said.
MDTA is aware of this issue. A spokesperson told WMAR-2 News that during normal periods, call wait times are typically less than five minutes. Current wait times for calls to MDTA’s customer service center are in excess of 30 minutes and at peak times nearly an hour.
The agency sent out courtesy letters in September telling customers they could proactively pay but with mail delays they’ve had issues with timely delivery of toll notices.
“We’re not getting these tickets within a reasonable time to pay before the fine hits,” said Freeman.
MDTA recently issued a statement in response to this issue. The department wrote in part:
“We know you are trying to reach us, and to say that call volumes are extremely high is an understatement. Rest assured that contested mail delivery delays and the time it takes for our team to research your request will NOT be held against you."
The department is using the date postmarked on the envelope to determine if a toll payment is late, not the date they receive the mailing. If a customer received a civil penalty and already made on time payment for the original toll amount, the civil penalty will be waived when their payment is processed/posted.
Unpaid tolls aren’t being referred to collections or the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) for registration flagging or suspension, however, drivers won’t get a free pass on late penalties if they knowingly miss the deadline.
"Video Tolling customers are given 30 days from the date of the Notice of Toll Due (NOTD) to pay their tolls – in the same spirit as your mortgage, car payments credit-card, and utility company payments," a MDTA spokesperson wrote to WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.
Freeman had her issue resolved after emailing the governor’s office.
MDTA has extended call center hours to include Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and two hours beyond normal operating hours on Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
A MDTA spokesperson said call wait times will also improve when they transition to a new vendor this spring. The number of call center representatives will increase from around 30 representatives to 100.
If you can’t reach anyone by phone, you can make an appointment to visit a customer service center. Click here for more information on call center hours and making an appointment.
Drivers are also encouraged to get an E-ZPass to avoid video tolls and to pay reduced rates.
And while MDTA says they have to assess civil penalties under Maryland law, last July, fines were cut in half from $50 to $25.