Collecting turnpike money vital
Aug. 4 will be an important day for the Pennsylvania Turnpike and for the more than 10,600 people who owe the toll road a collective $17.1 million.
That’s the day when the turnpike officially gains the power to pursue vehicle-registration suspensions for those guilty of overdue toll violations and invoices.
Act 165 of 2016 authorizes the turnpike to request suspensions through PennDOT.
But in the meantime, those 10,600 scofflaws with six or more outstanding toll invoices or violations — who already have ignored a total of 280,855 violation notices — are being extended an undeserved opportunity to pay up before registration-suspension action begins.
Under a program of partial amnesty currently in effect, the scofflaws will be able to avoid additional fees if their payments are received by Aug. 4.
The toll road will lose some money through this goodwill gesture, but getting the bulk of the money that’s due and putting that money to good use will minimize the impact of that monetary loss.
It’s unfair to the toll-road travelers who pay what’s due when it’s due, when others have gotten what, up to now, has amounted to a free ride.
The motorists who will be targeted initially owe tolls and fees totaling $500 or more. However, according to Turnpike Chief Executive Officer Mark Compton, anyone with an outstanding toll bill or violation can take advantage of the partial amnesty.
However, it can be said that even those owing lesser overdue amounts aren’t deserving of the consideration that the amnesty provides.
In a press release issued Wednesday by the Turnpike Commission, Compton said, “Last week, letters explaining our partial amnesty plan were mailed to those at imminent risk of suspension. While repeat violators may have ignored multiple past attempts to collect outstanding tolls and penalties, this is a notice they should not ignore.”
Unfortunately, some likely will, until the reality of their situation is upon them.
At that point, the financial benefit that could have been realized by taking advantage of the amnesty will no longer be available. And there no doubt will be costs associated with getting a revoked registration reinstated — beyond the inconveniences experienced.
The only complaint that’s due regarding Act 165 is that it was so late in coming.
Collecting the $17.1 million is important to the turnpike for a reason other than helping to keep the roadway in good repair and safe. The turnpike still is dealing with the effects of a 2007 state law that has required the toll road to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the state.
Those payments have eased pressure on lawmakers to find money for PennDOT.
The current amnesty, which is generous to people not deserving of that generosity, must be allowed to play out. After that, the turnpike and PennDOT should show no hesitancy to crack down on the scofflaws owing the $17.1 million.
Call it an exercise of “tough love” for teaching financial responsibility.
Number of notices of unpaid turnpike fees sent to area counties and the total owed rounded to the nearest dollar
County Number Total
Bedford 250 $18,981
Blair 125 $7,909
Cambria 509 $50,795
Centre 66 $4,424
Clearfield 18 $1,864
Huntingdon 120 $7,705
Indiana 517 $26,058
Somerset 367 $22,243
Source: PA Turnpike/Pennlive.com