AUSTIN -- Texas toll roads are getting faster.
New laws have raised speed limits in some areas and done away with stopping to pay at toll booths by billing motorists on a per use basis
. But for those who throw those bills away, things are about to get tougher.
"It's not fair that (other) people have been paying their tolls and these people have been getting away with it," says Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) spokesperson Veronica Beyer.
As of the beginning of October, some 28,000 people across Texas have more than 100 unpaid tolls. Among them are the tollways' top offenders, and thanks to a new law passed this session, they're about to get outed.
"Tomorrow the names get published, and that's for good reason," says Beyer. "There's $27 million in unpaid tolls right now that's owed to the state, owed to the citizens of Texas. And this is money that could be used to pay debt, and pay for maintenance on these roadways, and operations on these roadways."
Violators could also be banned from TxDOT tollways and have their vehicle registration blocked. The program only applies to toll roads managed by TxDOT, such as SH 45, North Mopac and parts of SH 130. Not included are 183A and Highway 290, which are managed by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
Authored by state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), SB 1792
cleared the Texas Senate unanimously and was passed by the House with just two members voting against it. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) on June 14 and became effective immediately.
"Texas can't have a situation where a few residents decide, on their own, that they won't follow rules others follow, or they won't pay fees others must pay," state Sen. Watson said in a statement to KVUE on Wednesday.
"We can't create a situation where the rest of us have to cover the costs that others run up on our roads," said Watson. "My legislation simply allows transportation agencies to enforce the law in a reasonable way when people are repeatedly, habitually and intentionally violating it by passing their costs onto the rest of us."
The program has led to plenty of feedback already, with nearly 200 comments on the KVUE Insider Facebook page alone.
"I think they definitely should pay their fair share," said TxTag user Steve Morrison, although he cautions TxDOT should address complaints he's heard about the billing system first.
"If a fellow went through the toll one time, they might get billed three or four times," said Morrison. "Seems like they ought to get that corrected before they start hitting people for past dues."
Still, Morrison says he's personally never had a problem. Mary Ann Rucker told KVUE she was among the first to begin using TxTag to take advantage of the Austin area's many toll roads. After several years of use, she has yet to experience a billing issue.
"It's very convenient," said Rucker.
Beyer says if there's a problem, call.
"You need to contact us first and foremost," said Beyer. "We'll work with you. We can even go through a payment plan system. What we need to do is just get this bill paid."