If you’ve driven through Maryland the last couple of years, didn’t pay a toll(s), and thought you were in the clear because no one would ever know? Well, you’re out of luck because they’re coming for you. As the Washington Post reports, Maryland is not only considering hiring collection agencies to collect the tolls, it’s partnering with neighboring states to find drivers as well.
The Maryland Transportation Authority estimates that there are over $170 million in unpaid tolls. But the pandemic made everything worse, and the debt increased by $30 million late last year. A few years ago, the state had implemented a program intended to try and help those that owed tolls. Called the Civil Penalty Waiver Program, it ended in late 2015 after collecting $3 million in tolls. But those that didn’t take advantage of the program were sent notice that their vehicle registration would be suspended if payment wasn’t received. Obviously, that wasn’t enough of a threat because the state is getting serious now.
The state is considering two courses of action. One is reciprocity agreements with neighboring states. In this plan, already backed by 38 Maryland state lawmakers, neighboring states would help collect tolls on Maryland’s behalf with driver data provided by Maryland. Those states would then fine those drivers according to their laws while collecting Maryland’s toll.
The second route that the state is currently considering is private collection agencies. The MTDA is already in the process of getting a contract with an out-of-state collection agency to do this. The agency doesn’t seem to think reciprocity agreements are the way to go with one agency spokesperson calling them “complex” and saying they could “take years to reach an agreement.”
The drawback to reciprocity is it is harder to pull off and complex to run. While the drawbacks to using a collection agency would be less money collected—you have to pay the debt collector, after all. Either way, Maryland seems determined to get what it is owed.