2019 | Traffic

Maryland Has $17.5 Million in Overdue Tolls, Fees from ICC

Legislation under review would streamline collection of debt from out-of-state drivers

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Out-of-state drivers who haven’t paid tolls for using the Intercounty Connector in the last two years owe Maryland more than $17 million.

In fiscal 2017 and 2018, the Maryland Transportation Authority has referred $54.5 million in tolls and fines racked up by drivers from other states to a Maryland government central debt collection unit, and only about 2.4 percent has been recovered, according to information presented last week to a state legislative committee.

About a third of the debt — $17,454,117 — is from the ICC, according to a spokeswoman for the MDTA, which oversees the ICC and other toll roads and bridges, including the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The 18-mile ICC, linking Interstate 270 near Gaithersburg and I-95 in Laurel, is one of two toll roads in Maryland that doesn’t take cash and requires an electronic E-ZPass. Cameras take pictures of vehicles without the transponders and owners, traced by license plate numbers, are mailed a bill.

The House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee is considering legislation that would allow the state to outsource collection of delinquent payments, fines and penalties to a private contractor, a shift that could increase the recovery of debt from out-of-state motorists.

“The debt collection company is likely to be more successful at collecting the out-of-state debt than [the state collection unit],” according to an analysis attached to the legislation. Under the proposal, the collection agency would keep a portion of the money it collected.

The legislation comes as the state is considering expanding the number of roads and bridges that won’t have toll booths and will rely on E-ZPass and video tolling systems.

While Maryland agencies can take action against in-state drivers with delinquent tolls or unpaid tickets, including suspending a vehicle’s registration, it is more difficult to collect from vehicle owners outside of the state, officials said.

Del. Al Carr, a Kensington Democrat, said Friday that hiring a third-party collection agency is similar to methods used by Georgia’s Peach Pass electronic toll transponder system.

Carr is co-sponsoring a separate bill that would prevent the MDTA from suspending a vehicle’s registration due to unpaid tolls, although the state could still elect not to renew the registration. The bill suggests that the MDTA enter into reciprocity agreements with neighboring states so they could refuse to renew a registration for vehicle owners failing to pay a Maryland toll.

Carr said his bill is needed as cashless toll collection expands.

“When we go cashless, more people are gonna go through E-ZPass or video tolls, which means the number of video tolls is gonna increase and tag suspensions is gonna increase,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com