Since the state began tolling State Route 520 in late 2011, countless stories surfaced about drivers that received substantial fines for unpaid tolls, that in many cases they did not receive a bill for. A proposal by Sen. Andy Hill provides solutions for the Washington State Department of Transportation to improve notification and customer service, address technology gaps and establish a one-time toll penalty amnesty program.
“There are too many instances of drivers not being notified of the original toll or even the fines for a variety of reasons beyond their control,” said Hill who represents Redmond, Duvall, Kirkland, Sammamish and Woodinville. “The system places the entire burden on drivers with only a narrow appeals process – this is not the standard of customer service we expect from our government. The goal of WSDOT should be to ensure drivers pay what they owe, but don’t get caught in bureaucratic red tape and face unnecessary fines.”
Frequent news stories have highlighted communication gaps especially with changing addresses, vehicle registration and other administrative issues. Hill’s plan would require WSDOT to email drivers during the 80 days before an unpaid toll became a civil penalty and follow up by phone with those that provide a contact number within five days prior to issuing a notice of civil penalty.
Hill’s measure would also address technology problems by ensuring the Department of Licensing and WSDOT could seamlessly share updated customer records. Additionally WSDOT would need to create a mobile phone application where drivers could manage toll accounts. WSDOT customer service agents would also gain the authority to correct errors that led to drivers not receiving notice if the balance owed was less than $100.