ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- When drivers have a problem with their E-ZPass on the 495 Express Lanes, Dulles Toll Road or Intercounty Connector, most people think to call E-ZPass to resolve it.
Many drivers also think E-ZPass is who they call to solve unpaid trips on the toll road as well. But that's not the case.
It's an error Christina Selbe, of Fredericksburg, made with her own unresolved tolls.
"I called E-ZPass and I gave them my license plate number. They said, 'Oh you're fine. What are you talking about?'," says Selbe. "During the call, the representative realized I was on the (495) Express Lanes and transferred me to Transurban."
Selbe says she was confused because all the markings on the road and overhead signage read E-ZPass. She just assumed that E-ZPass was the agency to call if there was a problem.
E-ZPass can help with problems such as auto-renewal or insufficient funds to prevent future billing problems for drivers.
But E-ZPass cannot fix problems that have already happened. It cannot undo or pay an unpaid trip that has already occurred.
For that, drivers must contact the toll road operator. On the 495 Express Lanes, that's Transurban. For the ICC, it's the Maryland Transportation Authority; on the Dulles Toll Road, it's the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
"I think of it like Visa. You use Visa to pay for things, but it's still your money and you're paying another company," says Selbe.
The analogy is somewhat true.
In certain ways, Visa would be the E-ZPass and Transurban would be a recurring charge on a bill for services like Netflix or Hulu.
If your credit card number changes, it's up to the consumer to update her account with Netflix or Hulu or contact them to pay for a missed monthly charge. Visa wouldn't be able to fix that.
"The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to always make sure your E- ZPass is properly mounted with an updated card and sufficient funds on your account. Then you don't need to worry about it," says Transurban spokesman Mike McGurk.
Selbe says it's important to know who to call when things go wrong. She admits that, had she known this information beforehand, she would have had an easier time addressing some $700 in unpaid bills and tolls that she unknowingly accrued.
"With the new 95 Express Lanes opening next year, people need to know who to contact when something happens. It's not hard to find out, but you do need to look," says Selbe.
Transurban and MDTA officials both say these mistakes are fairly common, but they continue to try to educate drivers to contact them to resolve unpaid tolls before the fees and penalties escalate.
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