Drivers who regularly use toll facilities operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and rack up toll bills without paying can now expect some repercussions.
During a Sept. 26 board meeting the board of directors approved allowing the agency to use enforcement tools set out in a 2013 state bill for habitual toll violators with more than 100 unpaid tolls in a 12-month period. The Mobility Authority manages Toll 183A, Toll 290, SH 71 and the MoPac express lanes.
Tracie Brown, Mobility Authority director of toll operations, said the agency has 17,000 habitual toll violators with more than 100 unpaid tolls in one year. The two top offenders, both from Leander, each owe about $5,500 in unpaid tolls and administration fees.
“It’s not all fees that make up these balances that these customers owe,” Brown said. “They use the toll road so frequently their toll balances are quite high.”
Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said the Mobility Authority does take some toll violation cases to court, but taking all 17,000 cases could inundate the justice of the peace courts.
“We’re going to shake the bushes for everything we can, including in-lane enforcement,” he said. “If we find someone driving on the toll [road]and they owe tolls, they could get pulled over. This is one list you don’t want to qualify for.”
Officials with the Mobility Authority said the agency would work with customers who owe money on a payment plan to resolve their bill.
If drivers continue to not pay their bills, they could be banned from driving on Mobility Authority facilities, Brown said. If this happens law enforcement would receive a list of prohibited vehicles, and a driver could be pulled over if caught driving on the tollway and cited for violating the prohibition order.
On Sept. 26 the board also approved several changes to the agency’s pay-by-mail system, including increasing tolls starting Jan. 1 for drivers without a toll tag or a new registered account.
In response to customer feedback and concerns the Mobility Authority implemented several changes in late November to its pay-by-mail system that are designed to encourage toll tag use and prepaying for tolls, Brown said.
The agency hired a new firm, Cofiroute USA, to handle its pay-by-mail system, and these changes will result in a 63 percent decrease in administration fees for unpaid invoices, Brown said.
The schedule for sending out bills will also change, and the agency will issue bills on a monthly cycle, she said.
Pay-by-mail customers currently pay 33 percent more for tolls than those with a toll tag to accommodate administration fees. That will increase to 50 percent more starting Jan. 1.
The Mobility Authority is now, however, offering registered accounts that would allow someone to receive emailed statements and pay a bill early and receive a discount on the toll.
“The registered account is for users who don’t want a tag or hassle of a bill and admin fee,” Brown said. “The best option is the tag for frequent users.”
Other changes include more options to pay toll bills, including via email, over the phone and online.