Driver racks up $600 bill for unpaid turnpike tolls, fees

Posted March 27, 2011, at 3:34 p.m.
Last modified March 28, 2011, at 1:42 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A driver from Gray is accused of racking up $600 in unpaid tolls and fees by using his Maine Turnpike E-ZPass without paying for it.

Clayton Berry, 45, was charged with theft of services, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Friday.

Berry recently was stopped while driving his pickup on the Portland north exit, which he was doing every day, McCausland said.

Maine Turnpike Authority interim Executive Director Peter Mills said details about the case can’t be discussed “because this guy is still a customer.”

MTA E-ZPass Director Richard Somerville said 12 drivers in addition to Berry are on a list of “egregious” nonpayers who consistently fail to pay tolls to the point that their turnpike accounts get suspended. When that happens, their vehicle registrations are suspended and their license plate numbers are given to state police.

If they’re caught, they are pulled over and their vehicles are towed, Somerville said.

The MTA has 130,000 E-ZPass customers.

“The majority are honest, law-abiding, paying people,” Somerville said.

Many get violation letters because money in their accounts has run out. Most correct that, he said.

To make the list of “egregious” nonpayers, E-ZPass customers first run out of money on their accounts. They’re sent letters. If they fail to respond, their accounts are suspended.

If they fail to respond to a letter that their account is suspended and continue to use the turnpike, they become violators and receive certified letters informing them they’re in violation, Somerville said.

If that letter is ignored for 30 days and they continue to use the turnpike, the MTA sends a letter to the secretary of state requesting the vehicle’s registration be suspended.

Before that happens, “you have two weeks to notify the MTA,” Somerville said. “If you do not, your registration is suspended. Now you’re driving out there, we’re taking your [license plate] picture, accumulating the tolls. We can’t do much more to you until you get caught.”

Motorists are given chances to correct their standing at every point, Somerville said.

“We find with a lot of them they have not updated their address with their motor vehicle or they get certified mail and choose not to pick it up,” he said. “That does not get them off the hook.”

Mills, who has been head of the MTA for eight days, said he planned to ask for partnerships with turnpikes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to catch drivers from those states who drive through without paying.

More news available from the Sun Journal at http://www.sunjournal.com/

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