Sen. Charles Schumer. (Sept. 27, 2010)

Sen. Charles Schumer. (Sept. 27, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Sen. Charles Schumer is asking area highway transportation agencies to shift into the technological fast lane and use text messages to let drivers know when their E-ZPass balances are low so motorists can avoid a whopping $50 penalty each time they pass through the high-speed lanes.

"It's highway robbery," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Massapequa Park Thursday, referring to an apparent glitch in the E-ZPass system that fails to warn motorists immediately when they lack funds to pay the tolls on bridges and highways.

In a letter to the heads of the Port Authority, the New York State Thruway Authority, the New York State Bridge Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Schumer proposed using text-message alerts to let people know they should replenish their accounts.

Judie Glave, a spokeswoman for the MTA, said the agencies have already begun exploring using text messages to alert drivers. "Our hope is we will have it in place by the end of the year if not sooner."

Authorities now alert E-ZPass customers through the mail when their accounts are low.

Glave said the installation would take time because the agencies would have to put in new software and contract with a vendor.

The problem specifically concerns the use of the high-speed E-ZPass lane, which does not have a mechanism, as the regular E-ZPass lanes do, to let drivers know that their balances are low.

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