NW Indiana residents get big I-Pass bills

September 29, 2010 (HIGHLAND, Ind.)

About 116,000 Indiana drivers are now receiving violation notices of varying amounts following a two-year problem with the Illinois Tollway Authority's fine collection system for Indiana violators.

The bills only affect Indiana drivers who use I-Pass.

Jackie Fedro received the pages-long bill containing more than $23,000 in missed tolls and fines.

"I was in shock and disgusted that they could do that to anybody, to drop that amount of money, that kind of bill, in anyone's lap," said Fedro.

Fedro and her husband live in Highland, Indiana, but they use their Illinois I-Pass on near-daily Chicago trips.

The bill showed they had missed hundreds of tolls dating back to 2008, even though Fedro says this transponder is always on the windshield.

One $23,000 bill later, she thinks there might be a glitch with her I-Pass unit.

"They should have contacted me in 2008 or 2009, not two-and-a-half years later," said Fedro.

The issue with the fine collection system has cost the authority more than $7 million, and it now wants to collect.

"We recognize that our system isn't perfect, but we really view this as a partnership," said Wendy Abrams of the Illinois Tollway Authority.

Indiana driver Radley Robinson recently got a bill for more than $500. Records show his wife's I-Pass was charged at some toll plazas but not others, likely because the unit was sometimes on his dash instead of the windshield, as is required.

The toll authority is waiving his fines, but still charging him full price for the missed tolls.

"I was just wondering why I was paying the 80 cents per toll when I really should just be paying the 40 cents per toll," said Robinson.

The toll authority has also offered to waive Fedro's fines, but that still leaves more than $500 in missed tolls.

The authority says customers bear some responsibility, too.

"We always encourage our customers to check the status of their account on a regular basis to make sure tolls are being billed properly," said Abrams.

"I didn't even know we could go online," said Fedro. "That's the first time we've ever heard of it."

The Illinois Tollway Authority says that in many cases the Indiana violators could have avoided racking up fines if they had updated license plate and vehicle registration information online, because with that information, even if an I-Pass unit is not working, they can still charge the correct account for the missed tolls rather than assessing fines.

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