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Maryland threatens to block or yank vehicle registration of 131,000 toll violators

It's time for toll violators in Maryland to pay up or get off the road, the Maryland Transportation Authority said Thursday.

The agency that operates tolls on highways, bridges and tunnels across the state will begin sending notices next week to some 131,000 vehicle owners, informing them they will have their vehicle registration blocked or yanked entirely if they don't pay what they owe in tolls and associated citations.

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The agency is trying to recoup an estimated $7.1 million in accumulated unpaid tolls.

Many of the indebted drivers lack an E-ZPass device but went through E-ZPass lanes in the state anyway. Some arrived at tolls without any money, then failed to follow directions for how to pay. All received an initial notice for payment under the state's video tolling system, and all subsequently received a $50 civil citation for noncompliance.

Now, the MdTA said it will use authority granted to it by the General Assembly last year to either suspend or block the renewal of those drivers' registrations if they don't pay up within 30 days.

Most of the drivers on the list have unpaid tolls and civil penalties totaling less than $1,000, and will have their registrations flagged for non-renewal if they don't settle their debts, the MdTA said.

But about 9,000 of the drivers owe more than $1,000 in tolls and civil penalties. If they don't pay, they will be referred to the Motor Vehicle Administration for immediate suspension of their registration.

"The MdTA is assuring the 99 percent of motorists who do pay their tolls that it is not letting toll violators get away without paying," the agency said in a statement.

The MdTA declined to release a list of the alleged violators, citing privacy laws.

Since the law establishing the civil penalties and the MdTA's authority to target vehicle registrations of toll scofflaws went into effect in October 2013, payment on video toll notices has increased from 60 percent to 70 percent, the MdTA said.

It expects even more drivers will pay after this latest round of notices goes out, and that the state's backlog of noncompliant toll users will be cleared by the spring of 2015.

In addition to the Maryland drivers with unpaid tolls, the MdTA said it has a list of about 93,000 out-of-state drivers who haven't paid tolls.

If those drivers don't pay, they will have their toll debt referred to the state's Central Collection Unit in January, which could affect their credit rating, the MdTA said.

If drivers believe they were targeted by mistake, they can call E-ZPass customer service for assistance at 1-888-321-6824, the MdTA said.

Drivers may also contest citations in District Court.

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