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Long IslandTransportation

MTA fails to collect $11M in tolls and fines, audit finds

The agency, which rolled out cashless payments at its seven bridges and two tunnels starting in 2012, found drivers who lacked an E-ZPass or bought prepaid passes did not later send money.

Toll booths have been removed from the Queens

Toll booths have been removed from the Queens side of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

The MTA — which rolled out cashless tolling five years ago — allowed motorists to skip paying millions in bridge and tunnel tolls as well as related fines, according to a state audit.

The audit, released Tuesday, found that the MTA, which operates seven bridges and two tunnels, failed to collect or waived a total of $11.3 million in unpaid tolls from 2012 to 2017.

“At a time when the MTA is facing financial challenges, it’s important that the MTA collects all the revenues and fees they can,” said Mark Johnson, a spokesman for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office conducted the audit.

Auditors found that the majority of unpaid tolls came from two groups of motorists.

The first group were motorists who had neither an E-ZPass nor cash to pay the tolls. The second group were motorists who bought prepaid E-ZPass at bridges, referred to as “On the Go.”

In both cases, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority allowed these drivers to cross the bridges and tunnels and send payments later, according to the audit. But some did not pay and the MTA did not go after them to collect the unpaid tolls.

The audit said drivers who exceeded their prepaid amounts were hard to locate if they didn’t register with the state after purchasing the prepaid pass.

Jon Weinstein, a spokesman for the MTA, said in an email that the transit authority had “increased security and ramped up toll enforcement” and “aggressively pursued scofflaws,” but he did not address why the agency failed to collect millions owed.

The audit also found that the MTA did not collect more than $72 million in fees it imposed on motorists for nonpayment of tolls at the Henry Hudson Bridge — the first to go cashless — between 2013 and 2015.

The MTA told state auditors that the fees it imposed on drivers who failed to pay the tolls were intended to get motorists to send payments. Once the tolls were paid, the MTA waived up to 90 percent of the fees, a policy the agency said led to higher collection rates.

In 2016, Weinstein said revenue at the Henry Hudson Bridge was 104 percent, which exceeded the amount billed.

This fall, cashless tolling took effect at all of the MTA’s bridges and tunnels.

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