Almost 500,000 Tollway Users Billed for Old Tolls

Agency still threatens late fees on bills issued months or years later

The NBC 5 Investigates team has discovered nearly 500,000 toll road users are now receiving bills for trips that took place months ago or, in some cases, even years ago.

NBC5 Investigates started looking into the issue and learned that under an old North Texas Tollway Authority policy, ZipCash bills were mailed to motorists only after a customer made five trips on area toll roads.

This fall, the NTTA lowered the threshold to three trips, which resulted in bills being sent out to all motorists who had logged three or four trips -- regardless of how long ago the trip had been taken.

Through an open records request, NBC 5 Investigates learned that the NTTA stands to collect $2,313,317.68 if the bills are paid. That amount could rise even higher because the NTTA still plans to charge late fees to customers who don't pay their old tolls on time.

A few weeks ago, Ernest Parrish contacted NBC 5 Investigates after he got a bill last month for driving on the Sam Rayburn Tollway nearly two years ago.

"What I don't understand is why it took so long. They're supposed to be billing these things right away," he said.

Cynthia McDonnough just got a bill for a toll road trip from eight months ago.

"[In] April and now in December I'm getting billed?" said McDonnough. "I put it on Facebook and I think I had five or six of my friends immediately respond, 'Yes, I got one from November.' 'I got one from December.'"

The toll road users NBC 5 Investigates spoke to said they don't dispute the NTTA's right to charge. But they said they find it ironic that the NTTA can send a bill months or years after the road was used and then threaten late fees if it's not paid quickly.

"These are still tolls that were incurred. I think people certainly expected to pay them or they wouldn't have been using the tollway," NTTA spokesman Michael Rey said.

Drivers also wonder what will happen if the NTTA can't find some drivers years later -- will the late fees pile up?

"If something had of happened to me, would my wife have ever remembered that we went through a toll area?" Parrish asked. "She may have wound up with real big charges and everything before it was settled."

"Any bill that's not paid would have a late fee attached to it after the time has elapsed," Rey said.

He described the decision to issue the bills now as "an attempt to be better stewards of toll payer money."

McDonnough plans to pay her bill on time, even though it took most of a year to get to her. She and nearly 500,000 other drivers are finding out that the road from the tollbooth to the day the bill shows up can stretch on and on and on.

"They should have billed me a long time ago if they were going to bill me," said McDonnough.

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