Keep track of your crossings on toll bridges

The in basket: There was an interesting column by Danny Westneat in the Sunday Seattle Times on Oct. 14 about a woman who was assessed the $40 civil penalty for not paying the toll for a trip she made across the 520 Bridge in Seattle, even though two bills mailed to her were sent back as undeliverable and she never got them..

The law says the toll is owed whether the car owner has been billed or not, not much of a problem for those of us who have transponders and Good to Go! accounts, but a concern of infrequent bridge users without transponders on their vehicles.

I told Annie Johnson of the Good to Go! toll office I thought the public relations damage of such a policy might outweigh the revenue gained.

The out basket: Annie said the woman’s mail had a temporary hold on it, and when the post office’s permitted time for that service expired, the mail was sent back to the sender – to the Good to Go! office in the case of the bills.

So they knew the woman hadn’t gotten the bills. Her mail was getting to her again by the time the penalty notice was sent.

And that can happen to anyone who lets a toll bill go unpaid for 80 days, whether notified of the owed amount or not.

Annie said it is important to expect to pay the toll when crossing the 520 or Tacoma Narrows bridges. Don’t regard it as optional or gamble that your crossing went unnoticed.

If you don’t have a Good to Go! account, find a way to remember the date of the toll incurred, to be aware that there is a problem you need to track down if 14 days go by and you haven’t been billed. There is a separate $40 civil penalty for each unpaid toll.

If you ignore the toll and the civil penalty, you’ll have trouble renewing your license tab. Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing says, “The Department of Transportation sends us information about toll violators who meet the parameters for having a hold placed on their vehicle renewal and we flag the record so renewal transactions can’t be processed until the owner pays the tolls and any associated fees or penalties.”

The woman Westneat wrote about paid the $40 as well as the toll, but there are options, Annie said, discussed online at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/GoodToGo/faq.

The options when getting a toll bill and penalty are to pay it, write a letter seeking redress, or going before a judge to plead your case.

If you haven’t seen a bill in the mail two weeks after your vehicle crossed one of the bridges, and your tolls are not paid automatically from a Good to Go! account, you should call customer service at 1-866-936-8246 to find out why not.

Even Good to Go! customers can get a toll bill in the mail, with the same penalties for ignoring it. That Web site said reasons for such a billing include:

– You bought a Good To Go! Sticker Pass at a retail store and did not activate it by opening a Good To Go! account or adding it to an existing account

– Your Good To Go! Pass was not detected and you hadn’t kept current the plate numbers listed on your account.

– Credit card information on your Good To Go! account is not up-to-date.

– Your account does not have enough money in it to pay your tolls.

This all seems to be another incentive for buying a transponder and opening a Good to Go! account, in addition to the extra $2 one pays to pay one’s toll by license plate number.

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