Drivers crossing Bay Area bridges without paying tolls have collectively racked up a $16 million dollar bill, over the past few months. How did that number get so high?
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom removed 250 employees from toll booths throughout California. The Golden Gate Bridge went cashless back in 2013, and there was a plan already in the works for many other bridges to go cashless, as well. But, what was supposed to happen over the next few years, happened overnight.
For the 70% of drivers who have Fastrak, nothing has changed. But, people who usually pay in cash now pass through without paying anything at all. Instead, cameras take a picture of their license plate and send them a bill in the mail, which they must pay within 30 days.
Bay Area Toll Authority spokesman Randy Rentschler explained that pre-corona virus, the Toll Authority would send a $25 late fee, and then a $70 charge after that, for drivers who hadn’t paid. If the tolls were still unpaid, they would then put a hold on the driver’s re-registration.
According to Toll Authority records, 35% of drivers haven’t been paying their tolls, and it’s been adding up to $4 million in unpaid tolls a month. Rentschelr says he understands that it is a difficult time for many residents. And for now, The Toll Authority has resisted enacting penalties for non-payment. But, he also says the Toll Authority might need to change that if unpaid tolls continue to be a problem.