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MTA seizes 18 vehicles on the Whitestone Bridge to crack down on persistent toll violators

Feb. 10, 2023 By Bill Parry

Eighteen motorists trying to get to Queens from the Bronx via the Whitestone Bridge on Wednesday morning, Feb. 8, were pulled over and had their vehicles towed to a nearby impound lot for persistently evading tolls.

During the same day, MTA Bridge and Tunnel officers towed a record 32 vehicles during a 24-hour multifaceted operation across the agency to nail scofflaws who accounted for nearly $900,000 in unpaid tolls and fees.

“Thanks to all Bridge and Tunnel departments for their coordination in this revenue protection effort, and this banner day goes a long way toward securing revenue that is reallocated to support MTA mass transit,” MTA Bridges and Tunnels President Daniel DeCrescenzo said. “Drivers must understand, if they do not pay their toll, they may be subject to registration suspension and loss of their vehicle.”

He added that all MTA bridges and tunnels would have the same enforcement to interdict toll violators at the Queens Midtown Tunnel, the RFK Bridge, the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges to northeast Queens, and the two bridges to the Rockaways, The Cross Bay Memorial Bridge and the Marine Parkway – Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge to Brooklyn. After their vehicles were seized, the motorists were escorted to a safe area where they could arrange transportation.

“Some of them called for Ubers or they made other arrangements but nobody was left stranded on the roadway, nobody’s left to walk on active highways,” said MTA Bridges and Tunnels VP and Chief of Operations Richard Hildebrand.

(Aaron Donovan / MTA)

Bridge and Tunnel Officers’ vehicles are equipped with specialized license plate readers that can identify motorists who are operating vehicles with a suspended registration due to unpaid tolls, Hildebrand explained.

Bridges and Tunnels, through tolls and fees collected, has recovered nearly 90% of the tolls owed by recidivist toll scofflaws whose NYS vehicle registrations were suspended due to toll evasion since the inception of the DMV Registration Suspension Program in advance of the conversion to open road tolling.

This enforcement aligns with a coordinated strategy by the MTA and city and state law enforcement partners, including the NYPD, State Police and the Port Authority Sheriff’s Office, who announced a joint effort against obstructed and counterfeit license plates last year. In 2022, Bridges and Tunnels remanded nearly 1,800 vehicles for unpaid tolls.

Since the start of the Open Road Tolling program, Bridge and Tunnel officers have interdicted more than 7,600 vehicles for persistent non-payment of tolls.

Bridges and Tunnels encompass interdepartmental strategies for recovering tolls owed which include DMV registration suspensions, robust roadside interdictions and data-driven intelligence to continuously identify persistent toll violators.

“Everyday Bridge and Tunnel officers are out there keeping the public safe and protecting the revenue,” Hildebrand said. “Interdicting these 32 vehicles in 24 hours is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of our officers out in the field.”

He added that enforcement efforts include state Vehicle and Traffic Law that prohibits any covering or coating that intentionally conceals, obscures or distorts an image of license plates.

Motorists who want to keep their vehicle “off the hook” can avoid violation fees and registration suspensions by paying their toll bills on time, using the Tolls NY free mobile application to pay tolls or managing their E-ZPass accounts. E-ZPass NY Customer Service Center account holders can save up to 40% at MTA tolled crossings by using E-ZPass. To set up an E-ZPass account or for more information, visit the E-ZPass website.

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