Plethora of license plates leads to 520 tolling error

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on April 11, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 11 at 5:33 PM

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Larry Charneski said he’s never cross the State Route 520 floating bridge, but the Washington State Department of Transportation sent him a bill in the mail for an $8.75 toll. It turns out it was a case of mistaken license plate identity.

The bill indicated Charneski, from Vancouver, crossed the bridge twice on March 27.

WSDOT was able to resolve the problem quickly. The bill should have gone to a person from Colorado with the same license plate number from a different state.

Tolling on the 520 bridge is mostly an automated system. Drivers with a Good to Go! transponder on their vehicle can put money into an account. When they cross the bridge, sensors read the transponder and automatically deduct the toll from the account.

Drivers who don’t get a transponder get a bill in the mail for the toll plus an extra fee. That system requires a person to look at a camera image of the license plate, cross-reference it with a book full of color images of plates from around North America.

Since every state has multiple versions and even customized versions of their respective state license plates, interpreting which ones are from which states can be a difficult one.

Washington state alone has 47 different versions of its license plate, according to the Department of Licensing website. Colorado has dozens more.

A spokesperson for WSDOT says it never promised absolute perfection, but does expect its tolling to be accurate in the 99-percent range.
 

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