Time is running out for Md. drivers with unpaid tolls to save money

WTOP: The clock is ticking for Maryland drivers to pay outstanding toll bills without having to pay any late fees.

Maryland transportation officials launched a program in February allowing drivers who have late fees associated with unpaid video tolls to pay their tolls without facing penalties for tardiness.

That nine-month grace period ends at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, meaning those who wait until Thursday will have missed their chance to participate and will be liable for late fees.

“We hope everybody will go to our DriveEZMD website and check all their license plates to see if they have any outstanding tolls and to take advantage of the program,” said MDTA Executive Director Will Pines.

According to Maryland’s transportation department, the program was meant to “provide relief for customers facing late fees on toll bills that accrued during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Around $137 million in civil penalties for 756,000 drivers and businesses have been waived under the program.

“The deferral of toll bills during the pandemic protected Marylanders from hardship during one of the greatest health and economic emergencies of our lifetimes, but we realize paying off those bills now can be a challenge for many families,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary James Ports.

Ports said that the program gave Marylanders “plenty of time” to “pay toll bills without having to worry about additional penalties or other consequences.”

Separate from E-ZPass accounts, video tolls are a form of electronic toll collection that use still images of a vehicle’s license plate to identify a vehicle that must pay a toll.

The image is captured as the vehicle drives under the gantry or through a toll plaza at a toll-collection facility.

Drivers can save a lot of money if they pay before the grace period ends, said Pines.

For example, at the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, the video toll is $6. If you have three unpaid tolls and pay by Wednesday, you’ll only pay $18. However, if you wait until after the program ends, you’re on the hook for $93.

“So by paying before the ending tomorrow, that’s $75 that they’ll save and be in their pocket,” Pines said.

Also starting Thursday, Maryland will resume referrals to collections and to the Motor Vehicle Administration for potential registration suspensions.

“So we really hope that customers do take advantage and they act now.”

Maryland transportation officials urge drivers who frequently accumulate video tolls bills to get an E-ZPass, saying that it is “cost-effective” when compared to higher rates and additional paperwork associated with video tolls.

Another option for drivers is to sign up for “pay-by-plate,” an alternative payment system where you register your license plate and tolls are automatically billed to your credit card each time you use Maryland’s toll facilities.

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