BALTIMORE — The Maryland Transportation Authority is warning that backlogged tolls and long call wait times could stretch into this summer.
The agency is working on processing nearly 14 million Video Toll/Image Toll transactions and more than 2 million E-ZPass transactions.
The backlog is a result of the agency’s decision to pause processing transactions and defer billing for drivers without E-ZPass from March 2020 to October 2020. Now that the state is catching up on those transactions, drivers are overwhelming the customer service call center with questions about these tolls, some from 2020.
“Like where are these coming from?” asked Robin Zellers.
Zellers averages around $25-$50 a month in tolls, but in June, her toll transactions nearly tripled to $140 and jumped again in December.
Her online account shows several of the charges in December 2021 were from August 2020.
“So I’m not understanding why they’re just now posting. Did someone not do a download from almost two years ago? Or did they do a download and it’s catching stuff that’s already been charged and charging again?” Zellers said.
And when she called the MDTA, she was unable to reach a call center representative.
WMAR-2 News has reported on the extensive wait times at the E-ZPass call center.
When MDTA switched to new customer service vendor TransCore in April, there were 160 call center agents, but by August, staffing levels fell to 60 agents.
In November, there were 82 agents tasked with answering on average 15,000 calls a day.
Despite consistent hiring efforts, MDTA said they’re dealing with staffing shortages, retention challenges, and workers out due to COVID-19.
MDTA spokesperson John Sales said there are now 168 total agents staffed, however, 62 are on COVID associated leave and 22 are in training leaving 84 agents servicing the call center. Average daily call volume has also increased to nearly 19,000 calls a day with the average wait time around 1 hour 33 minutes.
And despite switching to all electronic tolling during the pandemic, recent transactions are also taking weeks to post.
“Before COVID ever happened, I’d hold [the E-ZPass transponder] up, it would hit, I could look into my account and the next day, two days max, you see where the charge posted,” Zellers said.
WMAR-2 News reached out to neighboring state transportation agencies about their E-ZPass toll transactions and call wait times.
A Delaware Department of Transportation spokeswoman said E-ZPass toll transactions take an average of 3-5 days to post. The average call wait time is 1 minute 26 seconds and there are 52 dedicated customer service agents handling on average 1,926 calls per day.
A spokesperson with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority said E-ZPass toll transactions post to customers accounts within 24 hours. As of November 2021, the average call wait time was just over 7 minutes and there are 136 customer service representatives. The total number of calls that month was 20,470.
Neither state suspended toll collection during the pandemic, and instead mailed toll notices to drivers without an E-ZPass when cash collection was temporarily suspended.
The spokesperson with Virginia Department of Transportation hasn’t yet responded to our questions.
Sales said MDTA is taking a metering approach, which balances the pace of sending both backlog and current transactions. “During days when more backlog is processed, current transaction processing is slowed to minimize large balances from posting all at once,” Sales wrote in an email to WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.
Customers can also take advantage of the opportunity to save 15% (up to $5) by paying Video Tolls online before the Notice of Toll Due (NOTD) is mailed. Click here to monitor any Video Tolls as they post online.
“If Video Toll customers sign up for Pay-by-Plate or E-ZPass, any future backlog tolls that have not been posted will be processed as an image toll or ITOLL at the same toll rate as Pay-by-Plate, saving them on the cost of the backlogged and new tolls,” Sales added.
It’s also important customers maintain a positive account balance. E-ZPass customers with a negative account balance will end up paying more in tolls.
For example, if a Maryland E-ZPass customer has a negative account balance, they can be charged double or the $6 video toll rate at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (I-895), Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95), and Francis Scott Key Bridge (I-695) instead of the $3 E-ZPass Maryland rate.
MDTA recommends customers enroll in automatic replenishment via a linked credit card or bank account to avoid a negative account balance.
Zellers said she was enrolled in auto-replenishment until she saw how much she was being charged. Now, she manually adds money to her account, but she said the deferred and delayed toll transactions keep depleting her account and have had an impact on her monthly budget.
“I went ahead and manually put $25 on it and as of Sunday, it was already negative $1," Zellers said.
If drivers are unable to reach an E-ZPass call center agent, they can visit a customer service center for assistance. They've expanded their hours of operation to Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Thursdays 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Below is a list of customer service centers:
Customer Service Centers at MDTA Facilities:
Baltimore Harbor Tunnel
1200 Frankfurst Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21226
Bay Bridge – William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge
850 Revell Highway
Annapolis, MD 21409
Fort McHenry Tunnel
3990 Leland Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21224
Governor Harry W. Nice/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge
9665 Orland Park Rd
Newburg MD 20664
John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway
1 Turnpike Dr.
Perryville, MD 21903
Customer Service Centers at Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) Locations: E-ZPass customers visiting MVA locations are required to make an appointment and can do so by calling 410-537-8400. The appointment line is available Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Customer service centers are open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Thursdays 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Below is a list of customer service centers:
MVA Annapolis Office
160 Harry S Truman Pkwy
Annapolis, MD 21401
MVA Bel Air Office
501 West MacPhail Road
Bel Air, MD 21014
MVA Beltsville Office
11760 Baltimore Avenue,
Beltsville, MD 20705
MVA Gaithersburg Office
15 Metropolitan Grove Rd. (off Clopper Road)
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
MVA Glen Burnie Office
6601 Ritchie Highway, N.E.
Glen Burnie, MD 21062
MVA Waldorf Office
St. Charles Business Park
11 Industrial Park Drive
Waldorf, MD 20602