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Va. To Use Toll Booth Cameras

In Virginia, the government can't use cameras to take pictures of red light runners. That's Big Brotherism, according to the General Assembly. But apparently it's okay to use cameras to catch toll jumpers.

The Virginia Department of Transportation sent out a notice on Wednesday warning all that the cameras are being tested on the Dulles Toll Road, Powhite Parkway Extension near Richmond and the Coleman Bridge in Hampton Roads. Starting early next year, toll violation notices will be sent to motorists when their vehicles' images are captured by the cameras.

Notices will state the date of the violation and will include a photo of the license plate taken at the time of the violation, VDOT said. Violators will be asked to pay the toll amount and will be assessed the toll plus a $25 administrative fee. There are appeals procedures to follow for cases of mistaken identity, sold or stolen cars and leased or rental vehicles. To ensure the privacy of motorists, all records related to violations will be purged within 30 days of being paid and reconciled.

At the same time, there's a benefit for drivers who use electronic passes: Toll booth gates will not be used in electronic toll lanes except where necessary for safety reasons, VDOT said. So in most cases, Smart Tag/E-ZPass users will no longer have to stop for toll gates in most places, and will be able to move more quickly through the lanes.

"The toll violation cameras became necessary because we were losing more than $1.4 million annually in toll violations," Deborah Brown, VDOT's director of innovative finance and revenue operations, said in the statement. "The good news is that the deployment of this technology will allow more toll facilities to provide 'express lanes,' which do not rely on gates or other physical barriers to ensure payment of tolls. This will reduce congestion associated with toll plazas."

I have absolutely no problem with this, and didn't have any problem with the red light cameras either. And I'm hard pressed to think of a tolling authority along the East Coast that doesn't use cameras to catch violators. Just seemed a bit odd that cameras are a threat to our freedom when used to stop red light runners in Virginia, but a useful tool when revenue is involved.

By the way, here's a link if you need any information about the very helpful Smart Tag and E-ZPass programs.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 30, 2006; 8:31 AM ET
Categories:  highways  
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