WSDOT apologizes for a tolling snafu that’s led to some drivers suddenly getting bills for hundreds of dollars.
If you received a whopping bill for overdue tolls, WSDOT is sorry. Very sorry.
And the state Department of Transportation is willing to extend your deadline for payment.
According to WSDOT, 8,200 vehicles were not billed in timely fashion over the past year for tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Highway 520 bridge and Interstate 405.
WSDOT is extending the payment window for customers who received late bills. The extensions range from 30 days to six months. Vehicle owners may also be able to get more time by calling WSDOT customer service at 866-936-8246.
In recent weeks, those vehicle owners began receiving bills for tolls dating back to March 2015.
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More than 80 percent of the owners were billed for one to 20 trips and received bills averaging $110, according to WSDOT spokeswoman Emily Pace. More frequent users received bills that averaged $825, Pace said.
Pace blamed the hefty late bills on a contractor’s computer glitch. It’s not the first foul-up for contractor Electronic Transactions Consultants (ETC). Late last year ETC had problems processing credit-card payments from Good to Go “automatic replenishment” accounts.
This time, an ETC snafu delayed billing for 126,000 trips by non-Good to Go customers. A problem with ETC’s server kept it from processing charges for the 8,200 license plates involved, Pace said.
The Texas-based company replaced a server last year and discovered a glitch in March 2016, she said. Bills for overdue payments started going out March 30.
And bills, some exceeding $1,000, arrived without explanation for the muddle; nor was there any warning or advance notice of the impending charges.
“I just want to reiterate we’re very sorry,” Pace said. “We understand the impact and any frustration that may result.”
To repair customer relations, WSDOT is extending the payment window for customers depending on how much they owe. The extensions range from 30 days to six months, Pace said.
If that’s not long enough, Pace said, vehicle owners may also get more time by calling WSDOT customer service at 866-936-8246.
If the 8,200 owners want to open a Good to Go account — which, in theory, would spare them from this recent problem — WSDOT also is offering a reduction on their pay-by-mail fees.
Even if customers don’t want a long-term account, they can open one temporarily to receive the lower rate and then close it, Pace said. The $30 prepaid deposit to open an account would be applied to their tolls. But they will need to call customer service or visit a walk-in center to move the tolls from their bill to an account, as this can’t be done online.
As for ETC not knowing about the problem for a year, Pace said, “we are certainly working with them after this issue to ensure safeguards are in place to alert us to an issue causing transactions to be late.”
ETC’s contract expires June 30, 2016, with an option to extend two more years, Pace said. WSDOT pays the company about $9 million a year, she said. In the state’s last fiscal year its three tolled roadways generated $134 million in gross revenue.