A key legislator is calling for a hearing after a CALL7 investigation found a series of problems with billing and the hearing process on E-470, Northwest Parkway and the HOV lanes on I-25.
Sen. Evie Hudak, a Westminster Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, reviewed the 7News investigation and said the tollway authority needs to make changes.
It doesn't sound like it's fair to Colorado drivers, she said. I wonder if it's a problem with due process or it's an abuse of power. We need to get to the bottom of that.
Hudak said she plans to call E-470 and Colorado Department of Transportation officials before her committee when the legislature reconvenes early next year.
CALL7 Investigators found that E-470 stops sending bills for tolls if a driver is in arrears for not paying HOV lane charges on I-25, and that the hearing officer is paid $75 an hour by E-470 and cannot reduce fines or penalties. The hearing officer can only determine if a driver used the tollway. If the driver used the roads, the driver is found liable and there is a $20 hearing cost added to each disputed toll.
We found driver Amy Begano was one of hundreds who owed tolls, but never received a bill. Then E-470 sent a bill with $25 civil penalties on each toll. With hearing charges, E-470 said Begano owed $2511 for $148 in tolls. After we interviewed E-470 officials, they conceded there were problems with the system and offered Begano a settlement of less than $300 -- the tolls, HOV charges and penalties on the HOV charges she admitted she did not pay.
We found when you go to this hearing officer it's never disclosed that you can't win and you're going to pay more costs," CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia said.
"Well that's not what any citizen expects -- that you can't win, Hudak said. The reason you go to court is because you have a reason to believe that you can win.
E-470 officials also said they will work with other drivers in a similar situation, but Hudak said a hearing may still be necessary.
"The highway authority and CDOT need to talk about this and create different guidelines about how the billing and the penalties are assessed, she said.
John McCusky, executive director of E-470, said he will cooperate with legislators.
The legislature can look at anything they want and they do look into things, he said.
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