FAIRFAX, Va., (WUSA) -- "If I'm coming eastbound on the Express Lanes, it'll drop me off past Tyson's just in time to get on the bridge."
We'll call him "Joe." And because of his job, we can't reveal his identity. But, this driver wants to tell you how his quest to avoid congestion has cost him hundreds of dollars.
"They're approximately five dollars to start, and is now $504.90," he says.
So, how did five $1 fines balloon into more than $500? "Joe" says on five separate trips, toll charges were deducted from his account during his commute from Maryland to Virginia and back. But, the transponder did not deduct the tolls when he got onto theI-495 Express Lanes in Virginia to Interstate 66. So,Transurban sent him a bill for the outstanding charges.
"Joe" says, "I had showed that the other two toll authorities did indeed pick me up and charge me the appropriate toll for that one, for that day, that big trip around the loop."
"Joe" did not dispute the charges he racked up in February and March of this year. He says he tried, for several months, to pay the $1 citations online in between trips back and forth down South to care for a sick relative.
"I had paid the ones that would let me pay online right then and there. However, they had already locked up these five here and their system wouldn't let me do it," he says.
For the next three months, he was back on the road again dealing with another family situation and didn't have access to a computer to pay those toll fees online. And, since he hadn't handled them, EZ Pass tagged each one with an additional $100 collection fee because they were late.
"I think the punitive charge is excessive, quite excessive," he says.
But "Joe" says he questioned whether he should have to pay the collection charges in the first place because the EZ Pass officewhere he bought his transponder alerted him that his device needed to be replaced.
But, he still was left with that huge increase on those missed $1 toll fees. "Joe" turned toWUSA 9 Call For Action for help, and we contacted Transurban, the company that holds the contract for the 495 Express Lanes.
"You don't want to sit on that. You don't want to delay. You don't want to wait for that second invoice to arrive because then your fees are going to go higher," says Transurban's Mike McGurk.
"That's exactly what happened to "Joe", and once the fees turned over to the collections agency, there's nothing Transurban can do. A $100 charge on a $1 toll fee may be excessive, but it is spelled out for every Express driver to see on the EZ Pass website. So, let this be a warning to all drivers who are not aware of the payment and collection policy of the service," says WUSA 9 Lesli Foster.
"You've got to be a little exasperated with the system," says "Joe."
We've reached out to the collection agency, but they tell ourWUSA 9 Call For Action team that they can't talk to us, they need to hear from "Joe."
They do tell us, they are willing to work with him to resolve this issue.
And late today, Joe learned he will only have to pay $200 to settle his account.
Now, there's no one place to turn if you have this kind of problem. Essentially, you have to reach out to up to three different providers.
Transurban, to handle the toll fees, EZ Pass to handle transponder problems, and, if you don't handle those situations quickly enough, the third provider is the collections agency.
If you have a problem or want to volunteer on our team, click here on theCall For Action link.
Or call the hotline at 301-652-HELP (4357)