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Tacoma Narrows Bridge drivers slammed with tickets

Washington State Department of Transportation

[UPDATE 2:25 p.m:from the WSDOT: No additional toll infractions to users of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will be issued until glitches in the tolling system operated by a Texas-based company are resolved, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said today.
WSDOT Deputy Secretary David Dye said the department is implementing an internal financial audit of Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp. (ETCC) of Texas, the company that took over toll operations on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in February.
Also today, Gov. Chris Gregoire asked Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond to reconvene a Tolling Expert Review Panel to conduct a mid-course assessment of the performance of ETCC. The panel originally was convened in 2009 by the Joint Transportation Committee and made recommendations on customer service center operations and tolling-violation enforcement.]

[Oringinal story] Some 18,000 drivers have been sent notices that they failed to pay their toll on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the past few weeks. Now, a Gig Harbor legislator is asking for an emergency audit of the state Department of Transportation and its management of tolls on the span.

The mass mailings caused a backlash from bridge users who insist their electronic "good to go" accounts had money in them and were backed by credit cards. But state officials say that most of the $52 tickets are legit - that they stem from real violations that occurred during a two-month period this spring, but got hung up during a switch to a new tolling contractor.

RepresentativeLarry Seaquist sent the request to State Auditor Brian Sontantag, citing what he calls "the repeated failure of WSDOT to resolve conclusively a long series of tolling crises."

"It is because of the mismatch between official explanations and citizen reports that I ask for an immediate outside audit", Seaquist wrote.

Craig Stone, director of WSDOT's toll division, told the News Tribune Wednesday that he had just received Seaquist's letter and hadn't read all the way through it. He said the department is working with the new vendor, Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp., to look for problems with the system but as of yesterday, hadn't found any.

ETCC is the same company working to install tolling equipment on the SR 520 bridge.

Now, there's concern that as many as 200 tickets may have been unfairly issued do to a glitch with the new system.

Meanwhile, no more infraction letters are going out until officials finish reviewing complaints and getting answers to questions, Stone said. That applies to additional people who might have broken toll rules between March 19 and May 19 – the period of the backlog – as well as anyone who might have committed violations since then, he said.

“We want to be transparent, accountable and credible in all our dealings,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

On the web:

More information about the state's Good to Go tolling system here.