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Virginia's E-ZPass Fee Prompts Outcry From Lawmaker

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Cars using the E-ZPass express lanes as they approach the New Jersey Turnpike.
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Cars using the E-ZPass express lanes as they approach the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says new E-ZPass customers will now have to pay to sign up for the toll service, and current customers will have to pay 50 cents a month for the service.

The state intends to open more toll roads in the not-too-distant future, and VDOT sees this new fee structure as a way to raise millions each year to pay for operating the E-ZPass system.

But Del. Manoli Loupassi says when he heard what VDOT planned to do, he warned its commissioner that it was a bad idea, and if they moved forward he would introduce legislation.

"I mean, it just says you can't do monthly fees," he says. "If there are costs associated with having E-ZPasses, you put it in the toll."

Despite that warning and public outcry, however, VDOT decided to restructure the fees.

"I'm actually very surprised that they said 'Well, we'll just take half an apple right now and get everybody later,' says Loupassi. "That's basically what they've done."

He says people were initially lured into buying the transponders not only because of the convenience of avoiding long toll lines, but also because users were supposed to pay a lower toll than those without. He says it saves costs to not have to pay people to operate automated facilities, so there's no strong argument for raising fees now.

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