Many people are still seeing a delay in their E-ZPass bills months after a pandemic-related pause was lifted.
Transportation leaders gave more details during a recent meeting on why the backlog is still happening.
“It is a painful backlog,” said Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater.
He said that when the COVID-19 pandemic first happened, the department ended up “moving to all electronic tolling to reduce the kind of the cash world and exposure for our toll collectors. We then moved into all electronic tolling probably about two years before we were quite ready.”
The authority stopped accepting cash payments at its eight toll facilities in response to the pandemic, and paused mailing notices to drivers without E-ZPass transponders between March and October 2020.
Last July, the authority paused posting transactions for drivers on the Intercounty Connector for the rest of the year over concerns that drivers might be getting charged incorrectly.
The department was already switching vendors for processing tolling, which Executive Director James Ports said was unfortunate timing that contributed to the backlog.
Several states are experiencing these delays, but Maryland Del. Al Carr, who brought up the issue during the MDOT Consolidated Transportation Program Presentation on Wednesday, said, in his experience, Maryland has one of the worst delays.
Carr said he gets his toll transaction bills from his trips on the New Jersey Turnpike and from the New York bridges in about two days. “But for the Maryland ones, such as Fort McHenry tunnel, I-95, JFK, the delay is like two weeks for that to show up in my account.”
Carr added that people need to get them quicker so they can account for the cost.
Ports said: “We thought COVID was going to take about eight weeks, and it didn’t, as we all know, and each one of those decisions helped create that backlog.”
The tolls will show up in online accounts as they are processed, but there’s no timeline on how long that might take.
Slater encouraged people to pay the bills as soon as they hit the account, since you get a discounted rate if you pay early, but, “if they have not gone through that backlog of the processing, they won’t show up on the website.”
Ports said the switch in vendors for processing payments, pause in billing because of the pandemic and increase in the number of electronic tolls, “created that perfect storm, which created an enormous backlog. We’re just trying to work through it with our vendor at this point.”