Toll evaders running out of room

MA now working with NH, ME, RI, and soon NY

IT’S GETTING HARDER AND HARDER to hide from the toll takers.

Massachusetts transportation officials said on Monday that they now have toll reciprocity agreements in place with New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island and are nearing an agreement with all New York state tolling authorities.

The reciprocity agreements mean Massachusetts will work with the other states to help collect tolls incurred by residents who don’t have transponders and refuse to pay. For example, a Massachusetts resident who fails to pay a Rhode Island toll may have difficulty renewing his license until the toll and any late fees are paid. Similarly, drivers from other states who fail to pay their tolls in Massachusetts may face license restrictions here until they pay up.

Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s highway administrator, said he expects to have agreements in place with the various tolling authorities in New York shortly. Gulliver said an agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will only apply to New Yorkers, but he is hopeful an arrangement can be worked out soon that would also apply to New Jersey residents.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey runs the George Washington Bridge, which assesses a toll of $10.50 on cars with an E-ZPass during off-peak periods and $12.50 during peak periods. For those who pay cash, the fee is $15 at all times.

Connecticut, whose residents are reportedly the biggest scofflaws when it comes to paying Massachusetts tolls, has chosen not to sign a reciprocity agreement, largely because it wouldn’t see much benefit because it doesn’t operate any toll roads within its borders.

According to Gulliver, 86.25 percent of those driving on Massachusetts toll roads pay using an E-ZPass transponder, which means just under 14 percent don’t. It’s those who don’t, particularly those from out of state, who Massachusetts is pursuing with the reciprocity agreements.

Tolls are a major revenue source for Massachusetts. In fiscal 2018, which ended June 30, the state reported $396.3 million in toll revenue, and has already collected all but $25.9 million of that amount.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage this summer complained to Gov. Charlie Baker about how Massachusetts was shaking down Maine residents for tolls and late fees. Despite LePage’s complaints, Gulliver said the reciprocity agreement between Maine and Massachusetts remains unchanged because the agreement is with the Maine Turnpike Authority, which operates independently of LePage’s oversight.

“I think we’re in good shape there,” Gulliver said.