FOSTER CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- You may have noticed no one's collecting tolls on Bay Area bridges these days. Caltrans eliminated toll takers during the coronavirus pandemic to avoid spreading disease by handling cash.
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Instead, anyone crossing a bridge without FasTrak will get a bill in the mail. However, what they're actually getting came as a shock to drivers.
For eight years now, FasTrak has been sending toll invoices to motorists who cross the Golden Gate Bridge without FasTrak. Now FasTrak has to send invoices for all the other bridges too. So, were they ready for that? Not quite.
Crossing a bridge is a lot different during a pandemic. Traffic is light, cars whiz through the toll plaza, and no one is there to take your cash.
Instead, drivers without FasTrak will be getting an invoice in the mail. Or will they?
"At the top, instead of saying invoice, it said toll evasion!" David Owdom of Foster City was expecting a toll invoice for crossing the San Mateo Bridge and the Richmond Bridge. Instead he got a "notice of toll evasion."
"It's just a little scary when you get this. As I kidded my wife, I said, 'If I don't pay this, you might go to jail,'" joked David.
The notice only charges the $6 toll, but the Owdoms say it implies they did something wrong.
"Why can't they send an invoice like they do on the Golden Gate Bridge? Why do they have to call it a violation? It's insulting. That' s my issue," said David's wife, Deborah Owdom.
The notice doesn't say when to pay the $6 dollars, or what would happen if they didn't. It does have a lot of fine print and keeps calling it a "violation."
"Please include your violation number on your check. Do not send cash. A fee of $25 will be assessed for any returned check. Failure to pay on the due date may result in additional penalties and fees and referral of additional amounts to a collection agency," David read from the invoice.
It seemed kind of harsh; they just want to pay the toll.
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"'Sign up for a FasTrak account and we'll waive the penalty fees' -- so it is a little confusing," said David.
They contacted 7 On Your Side. We found out why FasTrak is sending toll evasion notices instead of ordinary invoices.
Basically, this is the only stationery FasTrak had on hand!
FasTrak said officials weren't expecting a pandemic and weren't ready to send toll invoices for all state-owned bridges. So they used the only forms they had: toll evasion notices!
However, FasTrak does tuck a little card in the envelope: a disclaimer saying, "This is not a violation. It is a bill for your toll."
"My wife's still mad they called it a violation," said David.
"You took my picture when we crossed... I didn't evade the toll!" said Deborah.
Still, the Owdoms take it with a sense of humor.
"She's a real criminal," says David.
"A toll evader!" agrees Deborah.
"She might need a good lawyer," jokes David.
FasTrak tells us it's still undecided if it will add penalties for failure to pay. So if you get one of these, just know it's not really a violation -- but you do have to pay it.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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