Turnpike & Bridge Authority moves to prevent incorrect plate violations

Most errors originate in New York and New Jersey

By: - March 16, 2023 3:30 am
A toll booth on the Pell Bridge.

An EZ-Pass plaza at the Pell Bridge in Jamestown. (Photo by Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

JAMESTOWN — Have you been mailed a toll violation for a state you’ve never driven though? Well, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) wants to help you.

The authority plans to have more of its employees use the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) software, allowing its staff to take over printing registrations and working with customers to resolve disputes concerning toll road violations.

An initial agreement was signed in 2018, allowing RITBA to grant access to three employees. An amendment approved Wednesday, March 15, will allow the authority to now have nine employees with DMV system access.

“Any way we can help the DMV and support Rhode Island drivers — we’re going to do that,” said Katie Coleman, the authority’s director of tolling operations. 

The change was unanimously approved at the authority’s board of directors meeting. The amended agreement will need to be signed by RITBA and DMV officials before the four additional staffers can access the state system.

The biggest violation dispute the authority hopes to address, Coleman said, involves “duplicate plates” — license plates with the same combination of numbers and letters. Up until 2020, passenger and commercial vehicles were issued these plates, with the only identifiers such as “commercial” placed at the bottom of the plate.

But it is not a problem in Rhode Island’s toll roads, as Coleman noted that RITBA implemented software in 2012 to differentiate types of plates. 

Most of the violations come from New York and New Jersey, states Coleman said do not have software differentiating plates from passenger vehicles from trucks. 

“Because most other states don’t deal with plate typing, they just enter [the plate number] and the first one that comes up is passenger” she said. “And the passenger driver then gets their violations in the mail, incorrectly.”

Coleman said there are plans from E-Z Pass — the toll collection system used in 18 states — to include plate typing in its software in the near future. 

“Once they add plate typing, this problem will get better,” she said.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.