Today the Texas Department of Transportation released a list of “habitual toll violators.” The list singled out by name citizens of the state who had racked up thousands of dollars in unpaid tolls. The list was made under the authority granted to TxDOT by Senate Bill 1792, a bill passed by legislators this session which allows the state to publicize a list of habitual violators, ban them from the tollways, and block vehicle registration if the offenders don’t pay their toll bills.
For some violators, the tolls and related penalties and fees amount to more than $100,000 — $236,026.32 in the case of Ronny Williams of Pflugerville.
What TxDOT won’t release are the names of various state legislators who have run up toll bills of their own. Through a series of recent Public Information Act requests, Empower Texans has uncovered lists of 90-days-past-due accounts associated with state legislator, or “SO” license plates. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Harris County Toll Road Authority, and Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority all complied with our requests. The North Texas Tollway Authority refused, and sent their list to the Attorney General for a determination of whether it must be released.
While we haven’t been able to uncover the names of the “scofflaw” legislators, the lists show that legislators collectively owe at least $3071.85 in unpaid tolls, fees, and penalties. And that number doesn’t count the yet-to-be-released NTTA list.
It sounds like TxDOT Chief Phil Wilson has some explaining to do as to why the agency is willing to out citizens but not legislators.
For full disclosure, Cameron County informed us that the two violations they provided had now been paid. One suspects that Cameron County officials gave one of the local reps a call after we started snooping around.
The list released by TxDOT today included all Austin-area offenders. It was not clear if this was because TxDOT has different authority over Austin toll roads or if the worst offenders were all from the Austin area. The North Texas Tollway Authority had for a couple of years maintained a list of habitual toll violators in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, but that list appears to be offline. Before it was taken down, the list detailed several violators in the $100,000—200,000 range.
Earlier this year there was buzz related to a “grace period” provided to the NTTA’s list of habitual toll violators. A provision inserted by freshmen State Rep. Jonathan Stickland allowed offenders on the NTTA list to get off with only paying the original toll fees plus a ten percent administrative fee. The program was apparently a success as tens of thousands of people with outstanding tolls flocked to the NTTA to pay their debts.