Out-of-town drivers visiting New York, and New Yorkers motoring to other states, could learn a “dirty little secret” if they use an E-ZPass to breeze through tolls this summer — higher-than-expected fees, a spokesman for AAA Northeast said Tuesday.
To soften the blow, AAA Northeast hopes to raise awareness about the toll discrepancy, which will see certain E-ZPass carriers charged the higher cash rate, said Robert Sinclair Jr., the agency’s manager for media relations.
The effort to alert drivers comes after AAA Northeast sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in June asking for a review of the toll discrepancy, Sinclair Jr. said. He urged E-ZPass customers Tuesday to “impress upon their elected officials that this is going on and they think it’s unfair.”
“Millions and millions of drivers are taking to the road to enjoy a vacation and being subject to these unfair toll practices as they make their way across the . . . Eastern Seaboard,” Sinclair Jr. said.
In 2011, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority eliminated its off-peak discounts for out-of-state E-ZPass customers to combat a revenue shortfall, said Tom Feeney, a spokesman for the agency.
“If [AAA]’s point is that the expectation is that all E-ZPass drivers get a discount,” Feeney said, “I don’t think that’s ever been the case.”
AAA Northeast serves members in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Drivers with New York-issued E-ZPasses pay the higher cash price on the New Jersey Turnpike during off-peak hours, toll roads in New Hampshire and West Virginia, Rhode Island’s Newport Pell Bridge, the Maine Turnpike, the Illinois Tollway, and Maryland bridges, tunnels and roadways, according to a AAA Northeast news release. Massachusetts offers out-of-state drivers a small discount, according to AAA Northeast.
The New York State Thruway Authority stopped offering a 5 percent discounted toll to out-of-state E-ZPass drivers on Jan. 1. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey offers all E-ZPass drivers a discounted rate, but the MTA charges drivers with out-of-state E-ZPasses the higher cash rate on its bridges and tunnels, including the Robert F. Kennedy, Throgs Neck, and Verrazano-Narrows bridges as well as the Hugh Carey and Queens Midtown tunnels.
MTA officials declined to comment on why out-of-state customers are charged at a higher rate, but said New York-issued E-ZPass tags are available to out-of-the-state drivers.
In 2016, nearly 92 percent of E-ZPass transactions on MTA bridges and tunnels used New York-issued tags, Chris McKniff, an MTA spokesman, wrote in an email.
Out-of-state drivers can also buy a New Jersey-issued E-ZPass transponder, Feeney said.
Sinclair Jr. said “drivers should be outraged about this happening, and let their feelings be known.”