The Good to Go tolling system on 520 has had some growing pains over the years. Now a Queen Anne couple has discovered another problem. The mistake wasn’t theirs but the state wanted the money anyway so I stepped in to help clean up the mess.
Margarita and Anwar Vanegas never expected the cost of crossing the 520 bridge to turn into a boatload of fines.
“I entered my information about to pay this $4 and I saw $900 in penalties,” explained Margarita.
For months, Good to Go had the Vanegas’ address wrong and when they finally got it right the state blindsided them with a huge bill.
“We were rendered half the service. Crossing the bridge is half of the service, getting mailed the bill is the other half and we weren’t,” said Anwar.
Their case exposes a real problem with commuters. If you don’t get your bill, you can’t find or pay what you owe online. State toll boss Craig Stone says it’s all about protecting customers privacy.
“What we’re trying to do is protect the privacy of individuals and being able to check up on your neighbor if they’ve been driving across. We really do try to take seriously the protecting of people’s information on trips,” said Stone.
The Vanegas’ address has a one-half in it, written as ½. It’s correct on their registration, which is what Good to Go uses for a drivers mailing address. However, the Good to Go system sent the mail to 1-2, an undeliverable address and without a new address, you’ll never get the bill.
“Say the post office says, we’re returning this to you but here is the new address, we will reprocess that out back to that new address,” explained Stone. “If we don’t know what that is, then that really holds it at that place and that time.”
The Vanegas family appealed its penalties but the judge ruled against them. Anwar said Good to Go didn’t give the family its evidence packet in advance. The packet includes copies of toll bills, penalties and fees. Without it, it was hard to prove its case.
“I happen to be a letter carrier for the post office for 13 years,” explained Anwar. “I know how return mail works and official addresses. It was hard explaining that to the justice two weeks ago that didn’t want to hear it.”
The couple contacted me and I got in touch with the state. That’s when I learned the couple had one more appeal left on a penalty that wasn’t included in their first group. This time they got a different judge who gave a surprise ruling.
“It’s clear what customer service has written is what you have told me. And for those reasons I’m mitigating and dismissing the penalties,” said the judge.
The state says this case is a one off but anyone with a similar issue would never know because you can’t just cross the bridge and then check you bill online. So, the state says it is looking at ways to make it easier to check your account.