Toll troubles: How to avoid violations and administrative fees

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Marlena Jones drives the Pocahontas Parkway frequently but she was stunned when she got a violation notice showing she owed a $100 administrative fee for missing a $4.50 toll.

“I got this violation and it was just unbelievable charges here for administration fees,” she said.

Not to mention, Jones believes she paid the tolls. “I actually have toll receipts for that day, to and from where I have paid these tolls,” she told 8News while holding up her receipts.

It’s not the first time 8News has gotten complaints about toll notices on the Pocahontas Parkway. In 2018, Ryan Frantz was one of hundreds who reported getting hefty charges for years old violations.

“I just thought, ‘what the heck is this?” How can they charge me a year after, when I didn’t even know that I did anything that I wasn’t supposed to do,” asked Frantz.

Since then the Pocahontas Parkway has upgraded its software. The high-tech system captures every car that passes through the tolls noting the exact date, time and lane the car traveled in. That’s how 8News was able to see Jones is missing a trip.

“We noticed on the day of travel she actually traveled three times, two that she paid for and one that she did not pay,” said William Muse, Chief Financial Officer for the Pocahontas Parkway. Muse points out her two receipts are both from lane 11, a westbound only lane. It appears on a third trip traveling eastbound she just got into the wrong lane and they have an image to prove it.

“She actually went into our credit card only lanes instead of using the cash lanes so that could be one of the issues,” he explained.

Jones says, “I have had so many issues before.” She admits this isn’t the first time she’s had toll troubles and she’s paid her violations in the past.

“Sometimes the machine does not work,” she said. 8News has learned whether you’re having a problem with the machine or you get in the wrong lane it’s easy to correct.

While you won’t see toll operators in the booths, they’re always inside watching.

“It’s very hard to get in touch with a physical person,” Muse said. “Our state of the art machines do have the functionality where you can press the button and talk to a person and they are always happy to help.”

You can also avoid a violation notice and administrative fee by paying a missed toll online. Muse tells us,”You can pay from our website within 10 days.”

After 10 days you’ll get hit with an administrative fee of $12.50. After 40 days you’ll get a second notice and it jumps to $25.00 and after 70 days, it goes to a collections agency.

It’s on that third notice that you will be facing a $100 administrative fee. That’s what happened in Jones case.

“The first and second notice were never responded to and that’s why it went to collections,” said Muse.

Jones told 8News this is the first notice she’s gotten. However, here’s the problem, that Muse says they find happens often, Jones is driving a car that is registered to a relative.

“We are reliant on 3rd party data and the data comes from Virginia DMV registry as well as EZPass,” he explained.

Therefore, notices are mailed to the car owner. It is likely Jones relatives missed those first two notices.

“There could be some issues there,” admits Jones admitted.

The situation is a good reminder for all drivers to keep their address, car and plate information up to date with the DMV and EZPass. We’re also told the best way to avoid being in the wrong lane is to get EZPass. It is accepted in all lanes.

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