TxDOT Pressuring Toll Offenders: Pay Up or Be Named (Update)
Update: Central Texas residents owe the state more than $27 million in unpaid tolls, and Texas is trying out a new method to collect the dough.
On Thursday, the Texas Department of Transportation released its list of the top 25 toll violators in the state. Topping the list was a Pflugerville resident who had 14,358 unpaid toll transactions, which totaled $236,026. Second place went to a Hutto resident with 10,566 unpaid tolls that added up to $217,619.
Violators were from six cities: Pflugerville, Hutto, Round Rock, Austin, Taylor and Leander. If violators do not pay up, Senate Bill 1792, which passed earlier this year, gives TxDOT the authority to possibly deny the offender’s vehicle registration and ban them from using TxDOT toll roads.
TxDOT spokesman David Glessner says the millions of dollars in unpaid tolls could be used for other things, such as building and maintaining roads.
There is technically no payment plan option in place for these citizens to pay back their fines, but Glessner says the agency would analyze things on a case-by-case basis and make arrangements if necessary.
Glessner says the people who appeared on the list on Thursday should not be surprised to see their name on the list.
“It’s not like we decided a couple of days ago that we’re going to go after all these people all of a sudden,” Glessner says. “We’ve had contact with them and they’ve chosen to the best of our knowledge to just not pay their tolls.”
Original story (Oct. 10): Armed with new legislation, the Texas Department of Transportation is hoping to put more pressure on the tens of thousands of drivers using toll roads without paying. Starting Oct. 17, the agency will publish the names of violators who owe.
TxDOT's focus is on some 28,000 habitual offenders – those with 100 or more unpaid tolls in a 12-month period.
“We have made numerous attempts to contact these habitual violators and collect past due toll payments,” says TxDOT spokesperson Becky Ozuna. “We’re just trying to think of everything we can to get these people to pay up.”
In the last legislative session TxDOT asked for stiffer punishments to aid in their collection efforts, and they got it, in the form of Senate Bill 1792.
The bill allows the agency to publish the names and the amounts owed by the worst offenders. TxDOT has warned violators they have until Oct. 16 to pay up – otherwise their names will be published online and released to the media.
The bill also allows the agency to ban vehicles from its toll roads. If stopped by law enforcement on a TxDOT toll road, those vehicles could be impounded, officials said.
The law also has a provision allowing county tax assessor-collectors to deny vehicle registration renewal, but that isn’t happening yet in Travis County.
Texas counties have the option to deny vehicle registration renewal for a variety of offenses, including unpaid parking tickets or unpaid child support, said Tiffany Seward of the Travis County tax office. “We’re looking at this program in other counties and trying to discuss whether or not it would be possible to implement it here, but right now we’re not refusing registration,” she said.