Plano Star-courier > News
Program to 'ban' toll violators from NTTA roads approved
The NTTA board of directors unanimously approved at its Wednesday meeting the launch of a pilot program that aims to bar repeat toll violators from NTTA roadways.
Under the program, any driver who ignores requests to appear in an administrative hearing court, where alleged violators can either settle or appeal their charges, is banned from NTTA roadways. If they're caught driving on the roads again, law enforcement can tow and impound their vehicles.
The language approved by the board asserts the NTTA has authority to enact the provisions of the order under chapter 366 of the Texas Transportation Code, a provision of which grant toll authorities the right to prohibit vehicles from using or accessing turnpike projects.
Michael Rey, NTTA spokesman, said the specifics of the administrative hearings, such as which violators will be sent notices, are still being worked out. However, the program should still go live by the end of the year, he said.
"The initial pool may be folks we asked people to appear in a [justice of the peace] court, like we currently do each week," he said. "We had 300 people who were summoned to JP court for outstanding tolls. If they don't appear or if they're found to be delinquent in paying tolls, there could be a warrant put into the system for their overall arrest."
A statement to the media from Tom Vinger, Texas DPS press secretary, did not fully commit to the program. Texas DPS is the law enforcement agency charged with policing NTTA roads.
"DPS is currently assessing its options, and will work with NTTA to determine the impact of this decision," the statement read.
Rey said the authority will continue talks with Texas DPS to see if they want to enforce the provisions of the order, adding that enforcement of the order extends to any local law enforcement agencies who may have jurisprudence over the tollway.
A search for judges to oversee the administrative proceedings, who cannot have any prior relationship with NTTA, will begin in the coming weeks, Rey said.
The most recent list of top toll violators -- drivers who have more than 100 outstanding tolls going back six or more months -- is 33,135 names long. An updated list, Rey said, will be released in "a couple of weeks."
The current thinking, Rey said, is that drivers whose cars have been impounded can recover them by either paying their tab or entering into a payment agreement through the NTTA website.
"We're offering that readily on the website for anybody who's on the list [or] has any outstanding tolls," he said. "We can find a way to pay those over time and even reduce some of the fines and fees associated with them, but the first thing is to contact the NTTA [and] reach a payment agreement."
A possible civil suit against violators is also being explored by the authority. More than 6,000 violator names have been turned over to six law firms, and letters should start appearing in violators' mailboxes by next week, Rey said. The attorneys should recoup their costs by taking a share of any settlement money won in the lawsuits, though the difference would have to be made up by the customer, he said.
"It's so much easier for a customer to do the payment plan now rather than have a lawyer's contingency fee topped on what they would still pay in the future," Rey said.
The banning measure was sent for board approval by the customer service, projects and operations committee in September.