BEAR CREEK -- The Pennsylvania Auditor General called for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to do more to go after toll cheats after he released a report that shows problems with its toll collections.
It comes after a Newswatch 16 investigation into toll cheats from last year.
When the turnpike first rolled out EZ-Pass lanes along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it was a big improvement for drivers. They could roll right through the toll both without waiting to pay cash.
But last year, our investigation revealed the turnpike is losing millions of dollars to some drivers who slip through the EZ-Pass lane without paying. On Tuesday, the auditor general released an audit showing almost the same thing.
“Though the turnpike commission has an extensive, multi-level process involving multiple collection agencies to try to collect unpaid tolls and fees, it lacks the authority to deter drivers from skipping out on tolls,” Auditor General DePasquale said.
Last year, the turnpike wrote off $3.7 million in tolls as uncollectable, frustrating drivers who do pay.
“It annoys me. I think they should go get them! I pay. Why shouldn't they?” said one driver.
Perhaps the biggest problem, according to that new audit, is that state law does not allow the turnpike to aggressively go after toll cheats, compared to some other states.
“What the General Assembly needs to do is provide the authority to suspend a Pennsylvania vehicle’s registration until outstanding tolls and fees are paid," added DePasquale.
In Maryland, the licenses of habitual toll cheats could be suspended. New Jersey posts an annual shame list of the worst offenders. But here in Pennsylvania, the law doesn't allow the turnpike to do any of that. In fact, as it stands, the law actually prohibits the turnpike from releasing the names and businesses of toll offenders.
“Something needs to be done in respect to EZ-Pass violators,” said State Rep. Mike Carroll (D).
He supports a bill that's making its way through Harrisburg. It would suspend the registration of habitual toll violators, which is also one of the auditor general's recommendations. The other is for the turnpike to publish the names of the worst toll violators. Representative Carroll supports both.
“I believe that that would be a step in the direction of making sure people would pay their fair share in respect to tolls,” he said.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chairperson Sean Logan issued a statement Tuesday, saying in part, "We look forward to working with the auditor as well as the legislature to secure passage of meaningful tolling enforcement legislation that will allow all tolling agencies in the state to make sure motorists pay their fair share."