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MTA: Suspend registration of drivers who repeatedly evade tolls

The toll plaza on the Bronx side of

The toll plaza on the Bronx side of the Whitestone Bridge. The MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee on Monday, Dec. 15, 2015, approved updating its regulations to incorporate a proposed new state regulation to suspend the registrations of vehicles that repeatedly evade payment on toll crossings. Photo Credit: ULI SEIT

Drivers who skip tolls on New York City’s bridges and tunnels would find it increasingly difficult to avoid punishment under an MTA proposal to strengthen toll evasion enforcement, state officials said Monday.

The MTA’s new plan would incorporate a proposed New York State regulation to suspend the registrations of vehicles that repeatedly evade the payments.

“New York’s transportation network relies on drivers paying their fair share and those who evade tolls put an unfair burden on other law-abiding motorists,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a release. “This ramped up enforcement sends the message that these actions will not be tolerated.”

The MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee on Monday approved updating its regulations to reflect the state’s proposal.

The full MTA Board is scheduled to consider the matter Wednesday.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles in November proposed a new regulation to permit suspending the registration of vehicles after their owners fail to pay five tolls, fees or other charges from violations on different days within a period of 18 months and who ignore repeated notices to remedy the unpaid charges.

According to the governor’s office, persistent violators will be required to pay the tolls and fees — or have the charges dismissed — to prevent the suspension of their registrations or to have their registrations reinstated.

A 45-day public comment period on this proposed regulation ends Jan. 4.

Robert Sinclair Jr., AAA’s New York manager of media relations, said he views the tolls as generally too high, “especially given the return on investment.”

“What is happening is that the finances of the MTA bridges and tunnels are becoming similar to the state Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund,” Sinclair said. “More and more money is going into debt service leaving less and less available to do capital projects.”

The agency’s finances need to be tightened up, however, and going after scofflaws may be one way to make this happen, he said.

Besides, he said, cars are always going to contribute mightily to the bridges and tunnels since vehicles cause such damage to the structures, which need routine maintenance and repair, he said. More than 800,000 vehicles use the Robert F. Kennedy, Throggs Neck, Verrazano-Narrows, Bronx-Whitestone, Henry Hudson, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial, and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial bridges and the Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown tunnels each weekday, officials said.

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