SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Letting Toll 49 fees stack up will now lead to more than just hefty bills for Smith County drivers.
Due to a new agreement between the county and the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority it can also affect a driver’s vehicle registration.
“This road was built for convenience and speed,” said county commissioner Jeff Warr. “Drivers are paying a fee for that, and if you’re willing to not pay that fee, then you ought to pay the penalty for it.”
Toll 49 travelers are racking up thousands of dollars in unpaid fees according to NET RMA officials. The highest single outstanding balance is $2,064.
Chris Miller, the authority’s executive director, said the agreement aims to help the NET RMA collect those unpaid fees.
“The county approved an interlocal agreement with the NET RMA that allows the Smith County Tax Assessor to put registration blocks on some of the most habitually violating toll users that we have," Miller said.
Currently, 755 Toll 49 users would qualify as habitual violators. Sixty-seven of those drivers owe $1,000 or more. To reach habitual violator status the customer has to have 100 or more unpaid violations in one calendar year.
“We operate a road that’s based on tolls that support the operation and funded the building of these roads,” Miller said. “You’re eventually going to have to pay.”
Miller said the administrative details of the new penalty are still being worked out, but habitual violators will be notified once the agreement goes into effect and given the opportunity to make payments before a hold is placed on their vehicle registration.
The NET RMA plans to reach out to surrounding East Texas counties to set up similar agreements. They remind drivers that they can avoid high fees by having a toll tag or paying by mail as soon as bills are received.