Toll roads should cross-check E-ZPass before fining you, NJ lawmaker says
TRENTON — The state Senate Transportation Committee unanimously advanced legislation last week that would hold the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and South Jersey Transportation Authority responsible for consulting the E-ZPass account holder database before issuing a violation, if a tag is not detected at a toll checkpoint.
Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, the bill's sponsor, said the NJTA and SJTA have claimed they already do this, but that he has had firsthand experience proving otherwise.
Paying an unnecessary fine is obviously wasteful for the driver, O'Scanlon said, and he feels it's just as pointless that these agencies have to generate the paperwork, print it, and mail it.
"Whatever the expense is sending out these ridiculous, unwarranted notifications, it should stop," he said. "Come into the modern world. Have your computer systems cross-check each other."
The senator said that while the point is not for New Jerseyans to drive around without their registered transponders, they should not be penalized if they happen to forget the device on occasion, or if it malfunctions.
He said he would be in support of some kind of "additional charge" if an E-ZPass-registered motorist is found repeatedly to not be in possession of their transponder, but that it shouldn't come to that anyway.
"There's no reason, this day and age, once you have an account, all your cars, everything should be captured by — you shouldn't be getting any violation notice," O'Scanlon said.
O'Scanlon's bill does stipulate that account holders "maintain accurate and updated information," and could be held liable if their accounts don't match their current license plates.
'Unnecessary accusations of people acting in bad faith'
The NJTA specifically, along with E-ZPass, has already been under scrutiny for years thanks to a long-running lawsuit over a $50 administrative fee that's been called a "scam" by many.
According to O'Scanlon, the transportation agencies need to stop putting account holders who are in good standing at fault, and finally cut them a break.
"Get it done," he said. "Stop with these incessant, unnecessary accusations of people acting in bad faith. It's not the case."
O'Scanlon does not anticipate a prolonged legislative battle given the measure's swift move through committee (a companion bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake), but said there's a possibility Gov. Phil Murphy could side with the NJTA and SJTA.
In that case, O'Scanlon said, Murphy will have a choice.
"Either the governor comes up with a solution that is enacted, and these things stop happening, or he comes up with a solution that he conditionally vetoes, that we can work together to implement," O'Scanlon said.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.