5 On Your Side

Toll road complaints continue; lawmakers push for change

Posted April 30, 2013 6:54 p.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2013 7:23 p.m. EDT

— State lawmakers are pushing for changes to the state's relatively new Triangle Expressway toll road after numerous complaints from drivers about unexpected bills, big late fees and poor customer service.

Andy Lelewski, the state's director of toll road operations, acknowledges that changes to the Quick Pass system are needed and says he will work with the legislature to make some adjustments.

5 On Your Side first reported about toll road billing problems in August. Since then, we've investigated more than 18 complaints from drivers – all but three of whom got on the toll road by mistake.

A wrong veer, and you're on it. Delay paying the bill when it arrives in the mail, and you're in for major late fees.

"It's robbery," said Heidi Matesevac. "To me, it's robbery."

Matesevac's original toll bill was just 77 cents. The amount was so small, she said, she wasn't sure how to handle paying it.

"It will cost me more to write the check and send it through the mail than to pay the toll," she said. 

To make it more frustrating, when Matesevac called to pay the bill over the phone, a Quick Pass customer service representative told her that only her husband could make a payment because their system only lists the first name on the title. Matesevac even sent proof that her name was also listed on the title, but Quick Pass wouldn't budge.

"I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" she said. "I said, 'Really? You're not going to talk to me about a 77 cent bill at a toll that my vehicle – that I own – is being billed for?"

After Quick Pass added a $6 processing fee, Matesevac sent a check for $6.77. In the meantime, she was slapped with a $25 civil penalty and more processing fees. 

"It's at $55 now," she said. "They're just billing service charges on service charges. It doesn't make sense to me."

The system doesn't make sense to Mark Richardson either. He sent a $1.50 check by mistake to cover a $1.54 toll. Once the civil penalty and processing fee kicked in, that 4 cent difference jumped to $43.04. 

Jerry Hester was ultimately billed nearly $56 for a 77 cent toll on a car he doesn't even own. A Quick Pass worker misread the plate, but Hester said customer service representatives refused to discuss it. 

"They said, 'Well, if you don't pay the bill, they will add fines and fees,'" he said.

Tanya Amatori paid her 45 cent toll, but Quick Pass applied the payment to someone else's account and then denied her appeal.

These are just a handful of the similar complaints reported to 5 On Your Side.

Calling the Turnpike Authority's current system an "economic waste," Rep. Paul Stam recently proposed legislation that would prevent the agency from mailing bills until a driver owes at least $5.

"We're always looking at our billing policies, and doing things like you said – delaying the bills going out or adjusting that time frame," Lelewski said. "We're certainly going to work with the legislature."

As for the monthly $6 late fees, Lelewski said that's what it costs to process bills. Regarding the Quick Pass computer system not reading all the names on a vehicle title, he said he wasn't aware of that.

"We recognize there may be a hole in the system right here," he said. "If it's a computer change where both names are on there, if it's something we have to do to make that situation right, we'll do that.

Lelewski stressed that the Turnpike Authority's standing customer service policy is to be forgiving, especially with one-time users who got on the road by mistake. He urged people who complained to 5 On Your Side to call the service center.

"We'll take care of it and make it right for them," he said.

The Turnpike Authority meets Thursday to discuss some system changes.