State transportation officials say they're going to give a break to people who were racking up big late payment fines under the Tobin Bridge's new Pay-by-Plate toll collection system.
The late fines, which for some have risen into the thousands of dollars, will be reduced going forward, officials said. And for 30 days beginning Monday, people can pay the amount of tolls they owe without any late payment fines at all.
"At the end of the day, our goal is to collect tolls, and we feel that this new structure is a way to ensure that continues without unduly burdening drivers with substantial fines," Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin said in a statement.
A new all-electronic tolling system was activated on the bridge in July 2014, eliminating cash toll payments. The system collects tolls from people who have E-Z Pass transponders. If people don't have the transponders, the system captures an image of their license plate and sends them a bill later.
The late fines were modeled after fines that have been in place on the Massachusetts Turnpike since 2000. But state officials said they were too high. People who failed to pay tolls on time were subject to fines of $50 or even $90 for each toll, depending on how late their payments were.
"While the use of the new All-Electronic Tolling technology has certainly proved its worth, piloting the system first on the Tobin Bridge taught us some valuable lessons. Too many of our customers were incurring hundreds or even thousands of dollars in late payment fines," said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack in a statement. "The goal of the program should be payment, not punishment."
Under the new fine structure:
— A $1 late fee will be added to every unpaid Pay-By-Plate toll after an invoice goes unpaid for 30 days;
— The maximum a driver can owe for an unpaid transaction is $6.
— After 90 days, the vehicle owner's license and registration will be placed in a non-renew status, until the bill is resolved. An additional $20 fee is required to remove the hold on license and registration renewals. (The fee is also being waived during the 30-day amnesty period beginning Monday.)
MassDOT spokesman Mike Verseckes said the state was also using new bright orange envelopes so people would find it easier to identify the toll bills when they arrive.