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RI gov. signs bill aimed at toll scofflaws into law

Target 12

JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed a bill into law that allows the agency that runs the Newport Pell Bridge to more quickly go after drivers who repeatedly fail to pay the toll.

As Target 12 first revealed, drivers could go over the bridge up to 100 times without paying the toll before the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority could take the motorist to court.

The new law lowers that threshold to 20 free rides, and allows the authority to put a freeze on license and registration renewals after 10 unpaid trips.

Buddy Croft, the executive director of RITBA, said on average 88,000 people go over the Newport Pell Bridge without paying a toll every year. In the last six years, that has resulted in $1.6 million in lost toll revenue ($9.6 million when fines and fees are added in).

The law the governor signed on Monday is retroactive and allows RITBA to take action on outstanding tolls dating back to Oct. 1, 2016.

The law went into effect immediately.

Kathryn Coleman, the Manager of Tolling Operations at RITBA, said in an email they may have to increase the number of hearings at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal to accommodate an increase in cases.

“We will work with the R.I. Traffic Tribunal to determine the best method of summoning toll evaders to the Tribunal,” Coleman said. “We may have to have hearings at the tribunal twice a month to efficiently and effectively manage the process for all parties.” 

Passenger cars are charged $4 (or 83 cents for locals), but if a driver goes through the gateless gantry — called “open road tolling” — without an EZPass, the license plate is scanned and a bill is sent for $10. After about two weeks that bill goes up to $50. After one month, it’s an $85 tab.

Records show RITBA has summonsed 201 drivers to the R.I. Traffic Tribunal since June 2012, when the gantry went online.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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