The Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority will kick off next week a new ticket discount program for drivers who have used the “AutoExpreso” lane without the funds needed to cover the toll.
The program starts Mar. 18, agency Executive Director Javier Ramos-Hernández said Thursday.
“During these past 14 months, we have seen an increase in the number of offenders of the AutoExpreso system. That has come to imply that the agency has lost millions in collection from tolls,” said Ramos-Hernández during a morning news conference.
He said that breaches to the AutoExpreso system are estimated at more than $1.3 million a month, which has an impact of more than $12 million annually on the cash-strapped agency.
“As you can understand, we should not, for obvious reasons of fiscal health, stand idly by considering these huge losses,” he said.
Drivers who hold the AutoExpreso card are currently able to drive through the designated toll lanes without having to stop, with the fee discounted automatically from their account. If the account has no funds, the agency allows drivers 48 hours to deposit money in it to cover the unpaid toll and skirt the $100 ticket.
But starting Tuesday, the agency will apply a $5 penalty plus the cost of the toll after the 48-hour grace period is up. Drivers who fail to deposit money in their account for up to 45 days will get a $25 ticket, with the penalty doubling to $50 if the fine remains unattended for 46 to 90 days; from day 91 to 135, the penalty will jump to $75; and after day 136, the ticket’s full $100 amount will apply, plus the cost of the toll.
To help drivers pay their penalties and fines, the agency will designate a special area at the CESCOs (Department of Motor Vehicles) in Arecibo, Bayamón, Caguas, Carolina and Ponce, he said.