Thousands Rush to Pay Off Old Tolls Before Deadline

Grace period ends Friday at midnight

Drivers who don't pay their tollway bills have until midnight Friday to pay up or face steeper consequences.

The grace period for habitual offenders expires at midnight. At that point, all administrative fees will be re-instated for those with unpaid toll bills.

In Dallas, Denton and soon in Tarrant, if you're on the list you won't be able to register your vehicle. And you could face trespassing charges if you get caught driving on the tollway.

The line at the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) Headquarters in Plano was long throughout the day and by 3 p.m. was wrapping around the building and by 5 p.m. was starting to wrap around the parking lot.

NTTA expected 15,000-plus people to settle up their toll bills on Friday, the last day to do so before the new consequences go into effect.

"June 2011 is how long I didn't pay it, for over two years," said Jessica Evans. "It adds up."

Plano resident Evans admits it, she's never paid a toll until Friday..

"I haven't paid them a dime," Evans said. "$725.46 is what I have to pay off over six months."

That's actually not that bad, considering what she owed in fees.

"I owed them $4,184.71," she said.

One gentleman, who wouldn't give his name, said he faced an even higher amount in fees, $12,605.36.

They are just two of the thousands taking advantage of the last day of a 90-day grace period. The grace period was put into place by state law that at midnight allows the NTTA to crack down on those not paying up.

"Folks who are on the habitual violator list, more than 100 tolls at least, they will be eligible to have their vehicle registration blocked," said Michael Rey, NTTA spokesperson. "Or their vehicle towed and impounded from the roadway."

Dallas and Denton Counties have signed on to block registrations and the agreement with Tarrant County is almost finalized. Collin County is not in the process of working with NTTA on joining the other counties.

The Collin County Tax Collector refuses to turn away anyone with unpaid tollway bills when they visit for vehicle registration. 

NTTA says it needed tougher consequences for those running tolls.

"Something else needed to be done, something was needed to call people to action," Rey said.

The threat of action brought Denton County resident Beth Mashburn to the Plano offices just to double check.

"If anything is out there, I want to get it clean," she said. "I want to get it current. I don't want any problems."

Mashburn didn't have any issues on her cars or accounts. Jessica Evans will soon be able to say the same thing.

"Big weight lifted off my chest, you know, I've put it off for so long," she said. "And I got a TollTag."

That's the message NTTA wants to get out, that all of this can be avoided by simply getting a TollTag and that it doesn't cost anything for the tag itself.

The headquarters in Plano will remain open until 9 p.m. Anyone waiting in line after 9 p.m. received a voucher to return to pay for their tolls without penalties next week. Phone lines will be staffed until midnight.

NTTA said it was prepared for people to show up on the last few days. On Thursday they interacted with 14,000 customers in person and on the phone.

NBC 5's Kevin Cokely contributed to this report.

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