After 25th bridge trip, expect a toll bill: Dime deluge 'exaggerated'
Drivers who've crossed the Sakonnet River Bridge 25 times or more without E-ZPass can expect a bill in the mail soon.
And in other toll news, that deluge of dimes and checks said to be fouling up the works is greatly exaggerated, bridge officials say.
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge voted Wednesday to send "invoices" to frequent bridge users.
RITBA Director David Darlington said a total of 25 passages was decided upon because it is sufficient to make a small profit after the cost of postage and labor (estimated at about 75 cents combined) is counted against the $2.50 that the 10-cent toll will bring in.
No fee is added to the bill and recipients have 30 days to pay. After that, they will be sent a second bill along with a $2.50 service charge.
Mr. Darlington said that cameras have recorded passage of about 750,000 vehicles since the dime toll went into effect. Of those, about half had E-ZPass and are automatically billed for the 10-cent toll.
Another 370,000 had no E-ZPass and will now be billed once they reach the 25-trip threshold.
The policy is a bit of a reversal for RITBA which had initially said that bills would not be sent for the 10-cent tolls — that it was the responsibility of motorists to make payment, not of RITBA to track them down.
When license plates match up to existing E-ZPass accounts but the transponder, for whatever reason, did not record the passage, accounts will be checked individually, Mr. Darlington said.
Asked whether so much paperwork is a burden on RITBA staff, Mr. Darlington said, "It is definitely a challenge because of the number of transactions … (staff) are trying to handle it in a methodological and careful way."
Asked about various payment methods designed to gum up the process, Mr. Darlington said they have had minimal impact.
He said the "bunches of dimes" said to have been thrown out the windows of cars hasn't amounted to much.
"Our crews have swept up maybe 12 to 15 dimes so far," perhaps partly the result of a radio station event at which dimes were handed out to drivers at a nearby rest area.
"That's free money for us since we don't know who the payment comes from so will charge those drivers anyway."
The same goes for the person who sent in 100 pennies to pay for ten crossings.
"That's free money too since he neglected to provide his name and address."
A call for people to send 10-cent checks to RITBA has produced about five checks so far, Mr. Darlington said.