|English: The Coleman Bridge as seen from Yorktown as it connects with Gloucester Point. © 2005 Wyatt Greene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
State study says VDOT loses out on more than $10,000 per month in revenue from toll violators at the Coleman Bridge in Gloucester
GLOUCESTER — About every seven minutes a motorist passes through the Route 17 toll booths at the George P. Coleman Bridge without paying, a scene that repeats itself more than 75,000 times a year.
The numbers of Coleman Bridge tolls processed in 2011 is a staggering 5.5 million, an average of more than 15,000 per day, according to figures provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Motorists who run the toll booths without paying account for only a fraction of the total number of vehicles driving northbound on Route 17 into Gloucester.
Yet each time a motorist zips through the toll booths without paying — it happens on average more than 200 times per day — the action triggers a process of tracking down violators that has become a lucrative source of income for a Hampton-based firm, and a potentially devastating tally of fines and fees for drivers who are repeat offenders.
A Daily Press analysis of data and documents provided viaFreedom of Information Act request to VDOT and the state court system, and interviews with drivers — who in some cases had hundreds of violations — reveals the lengths the state goes to track down toll booth violators. The examination also shows how costly a relatively minor infraction can ultimately become for drivers running the toll booths.
Gloucester resident Crystal Donoflio is among the thousands of motorists who have run the Coleman Bridge toll booths. She appeared in court in March in connection with toll violations dating back to 2000. Court records show 293 toll violations for Donoflio.
Donoflio said she had an EZPass toll-collection sensor at the time, but on some occasions, there wasn't enough money linked to her account when she crossed the bridge into the county. She added that she is behind on paying, is unemployed and is trying to get on disability.
"I'll be glad when it's all over," she said.
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