PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s governor has signed legislation aimed at cracking down on people who repeatedly fail to pay their bridge tolls.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday signed the bill that lawmakers approved last month.
Under the new law, introduced by state House Majority Whip John G. Edwards and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, the number of infractions for a person to be considered a “toll violator” has been reduced from 20 to 10. The act also reduces the number of infractions for a person to be considered a “toll evader” from 100 to 20.
“When drivers rack up that many toll violations, it becomes unfair to everyone else who diligently pays the tolls every time they go over a tolled bridge,” Edwards said in a statement. “It unfairly shifts the financial burden of maintaining those bridges to other users. And we owe it to taxpayers to see that those projects are funded in a fair and equitable manner.”
Toll violators are reported to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. The violators cannot renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations until any unpaid toll amounts, administrative fees, and fines are paid to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.
Toll evaders may receive a traffic violation summons to the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, which may suspend the toll evader’s driver’s license for up to six months and assess a fine of up to $500, or both.
“When you have electronic tolling, such as E-Z Pass, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have toll violators,” DiPalma said in a statement. “For those few who don’t take the bridge tolls seriously, this legislation will give us a way to get their attention, and let them know that they’re going to be expected to pay the same as everyone else.”
WPRI reported in April that motorists crossing the Pell Bridge racked up $9.6 million in unpaid tolls plus fees and fines over the last six years.
They reported that the vast majority of the $9.6 million — 85% — represents fees and fines, meaning only about $1.4 million is actual unpaid tolls, according to Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Executive Director Buddy Croft.
Class 8 tractor trailers pay $10 to cross the bridge, according to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.
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