TARRYTOWN – A new plan to enhance the state’s ability to prosecute and extract fees from toll evaders was announced Wednesday by State Sen. David Carlucci (D, Nanuet) at the Tarrytown toll plaza of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Carlucci is partnering with Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R, Merrick), the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, to bring the proposal before the next legislative session.
“I believe we’re making a big step forward to drag the system into the 21st century, to make sure that we’re not taking money out of hardworking peoples’ pockets, and we turn over every stone to make sure that the absolute last option is to increase tolls on any of our toll ways in New York State,” Carlucci said.
The new measures will double evasion fines from $150 to $300 for a third violation, allow authorities to bypass court or administrative hearings by suspending repeat offenders’ vehicle registrations through requests to the Department of Motor Vehicles and outlaw the sale or use of plate flippers, which allow drivers to switch license plates to avoid camera detection at tolls.
Additionally, changes to state penal law would establish criminal penalties for toll evaders and allow them to be charged with felonies when their unpaid tolls reach above $1,000.
“If someone has over $1,000 in unpaid tolls, we can hit them with criminal sanctions,” Carlucci said. “We can hit them with something like grand larceny that would be done with any other crime.”
The senator explained the current process for pursuing toll evaders was slow and cumbersome, requiring authorities to wait until an offender racks up five notices of violation or failures to appear in court within 18 months before they can pursue court permission to suspend their registration. Under the proposal, only two notices are needed to begin the process.
Toll evasion has been a costly problem for the New York State Thruway Authority. Between 2007 and 2011, it has been estimated $7 million was lost from about 80,000 travelers on the Tappan Zee Bridge alone. This resulted in about $5,000 in lost toll revenue per day.
The new Tappan Zee Bridge is set to replace the cash lanes on the current bridge with an all-electronic system, which will allow cars to pass through at high speeds, but electronic collection poses problems by making unpaid passage through the lanes easier. E-ZPasses used by travelers will be read with electronic sensors, while travelers without E-ZPass will be mailed a bill for the toll.