ALBANY – Intentionally skipping out on a state Thruway or bridge toll could soon get you charged with a class A misdemeanor in New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $178 billion budget plan includes two measures meant to crack down on toll evasion as the state continues its shift to a cashless system that relies on cameras and sensors being able to read license plates and E-ZPass tags.
One proposal would make intentionally avoiding a toll a "theft of services" crime, a low-level misdemeanor that would put it on par with riders who skip out on taxi or train fares or jump the turnstiles in the New York City subway system.
The other would boost the current $25 fine for driving with an unreadable or obstructed license plate — but only if the driver enters a cashless tolling zone.
If approved, Cuomo's proposal calls for a $100 minimum and $500 maximum fine if the driver enters a toll highway, bridge or the yet-to-launch congestion-pricing area in Manhattan.
“With the ongoing shift to cashless tolling, it is paramount that we ensure all users are paying their share, and this proposal implements a fine for those who purposefully obstruct their license plate from view to evade tolls," said Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the state Budget Division.
Construction started last year on the Thruway Authority's $355 million plan to replace its traditional, human-staffed toll booths with all-electronic tolling gantries across the 450-mile paid portion of the state's superhighway system.
It is scheduled to shift to the electronic system by the end of 2020.
Under the new system, drivers pass through the overhead gantries at highway speeds without having to stop for a toll collector.
From there, the car's E-ZPass is automatically charged. If a car doesn't have E-ZPass, a camera snaps a photo of its license plate so a bill can be mailed to the car owner's home.