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Legislation would require drivers to pay outstanding tolls for vehicle registration

The bill Sen. Marty Flynn plans to introduce would require all unpaid tolls, along with late fees, to be paid by the driver in order to register their vehicle in Pa.
Credit: AP
In this photo made through a windshield, the sensors and lights are seen at the west bound toll gate of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Cranberry Township, Pa., on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. More than $104 million in Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls went uncollected last year as the agency fully converted to all-electronic tolling. Turnpike records show the millions of motorists who don’t use E-ZPass have a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding without paying under the “toll-by-plate” license plate reader system.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Future legislation could require drivers to pay any and all outstanding tolls before they can register their vehicle. 

State Senator Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) announced Monday that he intends to introduce legislation that does just that. 

In a letter to all Pennsylvania State Senate members, Flynn wrote, "The amount of uncollected and unbillable tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike continues to be a black eye for the operational integrity of the system." 

His legislation would require all unpaid tolls, along with late fees, to be paid by the driver in order to register their vehicle with the state. 

According to findings by State Auditor General Timothy L. DeFoor, missed tolls stand at more than $104 million in Pennsylvania.

The vast majority of unpaid tolls come from Turnpike users who do not use E-Z Pass, according to reports. The 86% of Turnpike drivers who use E-Z Pass pay automatically when tolls are electronically debited from prepaid accounts.

The remaining 14% of Turnpike drivers use a system called Toll By Plate, in which cameras at toll booths take a picture of the vehicle’s license plate and then bill the owner through the mail. 

These 14% of drivers are responsible for the 7% percent of unpaid tolls, meaning roughly half of Toll By Plate users don’t end up paying for their ride.

"The goal of this legislation is simple: provide another mechanism by which to collect unpaid tolls from individuals that travel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This is a $155 million problem. I believe that this legislation provides yet another tool to address this problem," Flynn said in the letter to Senate members.

He explains that the main component of the annual or biennial vehicle registration process is confirmation of a legal address within the Commonwealth.

The outlined legislation would require the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) to share information on uncollected and unbillable tolls, along with late fees, to PennDOT. 

PennDOT would then be required to crosscheck the database as part of the registration process to verify that an individual doesn't have any unpaid tolls.

According to Flynn, if the individual does have unpaid tolls, they would need to pay the balance and late fees before the vehicle registration would be issued. 

Flynn highlights in his letter that paying customers are unfairly punished with toll increases while others are able to skip billing without repercussions. 

"Most importantly, paying customers continue to face significant toll increases that put pressure on their household budgets while others avoid paying without consequence," he wrote. 

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