Habib bill would assure day in court for appeals of toll fines
March 11, 2013 · Updated 1:01 PM
Drivers on the SR 520 bridge would be able to plead their cases with a judge if they feel they got unfairly penalized for not paying the bridge toll on time – and they can get the penalty thrown out if the judge buys their argument, under a bill by Rep. Cyrus Habib that passed the House 98-0 on Saturday, March 9.
“This bill gives us an opportunity to advance both due process and consumer protection in our tolling system,” said Habib, D-Kirkland, who represents the 48th Legislative District, which includes part of Bellevue.
Currently, judges in the state’s special “toll court” don’t have the authority to reduce or waive penalties assessed for late payment of tolls on the bridge, regardless of circumstances. House Bill 1941 gives the judges the leeway to do that after hearing from the penalized driver.
“Most drivers pay the tolls,” Habib said, “and those that try to avoid payment on purpose should be penalized. But sometimes, it’s not their fault – and everyone should have a chance to make their case.”
Tolls were first imposed on the 520 bridge last spring, but there are no traditional booths for collecting them. Instead, electronic sensors either detect a special windshield indicator, which drivers have acquired in advance and have linked to a prepaid or online account, or the sensors record the license-plate number of the vehicle and the owner is billed by mail for the toll.
But as described in news articles, in some cases the bill never arrived in the mail or was not forwarded to the vehicle owner’s new address, triggering penalties for delays in making payment: $5 after a 15-day lapse, and another $40 after an 80-day lapse, for each crossing of the bridge.
Habib’s bill does not excuse unfairly penalized drivers from paying the actual toll.
The measure now goes to the Senate for further action.