The problem was, it was all a mistake.
Kelly Melhem, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said in an email that a “deactivation” of software at the Hatem bridge toll plaza “was not coordinated” with a new electronic cashless tolling system. The notices were sent to drivers who would have been considered speeding at the old toll between Oct. 16 and Nov. 3. The agency said it spent about $20,600 on the mailings.
Melhem said the problem has since been fixed.
The Baltimore Sun was among the first to report the problem.
This fall, Maryland got rid of the cash option at two toll bridges and instituted an electronic cashless toll system aimed at reducing backups at the toll plaza by speeding the process. The Hatem Bridge was one of those. It carries U.S. 40 over the Susquehanna River between Perryville and Havre de Grace. The other was the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.
But despite the touted benefits of the new system, the errant speed warnings confused and frustrated customers who received them. Some said they reached out to the customer service center for the transportation authority, which manages Maryland’s eight toll roads and bridges, and asked what was going on.
In a Facebook posting, the agency told motorist to, “Please disregard the speeding notice you may have received and continue to stay alert and watch speeds in the active construction zone.”
Port Deposit resident Tom Adkins said he received two of the warnings in the mail over the last month. One said he was driving at 51 mph and another said he was going 52.
“It wasn’t true,” Adkins said via email. “There is a constant speed trap around that bridge, and any local, such as me, knows this … so there’s “no way I was going that fast through that toll.”
The speed limit on the bridge is 45 mph.
Like other drivers, Adkins said he was frustrated to hear the transportation authority wasted more than $20,000 sending out the notices by mistake.
“How much of a waste of money that was just because someone didn’t think to turn that system off before they went live with the cashless toll,” he said."
Motorist Donald Rhodes, who uses the bridge daily to get from his home in northeastern Maryland to his job in Aberdeen and back, said he received three notices over the last few weeks. But Rhodes said he figured they were probably wrong because it’s hard to even try to speed through the toll area because traffic is usually “bumper-to-bumper.”
Then he saw the Facebook post about the mistake.
“I find it somewhat laughable that they can’t figure out they have a problem and sent out thousands of these notices,” Rhodes said. “It’s taxpayer dollars. Why can’t you get your stuff straight?”