Student upset she was charged thousands in 520 toll fines

SEATTLE -- Becky Porter, a working college student, has a problem with 520 bridge toll bills she received.

Actually she has about 5,000 problems, as in nearly $5,000 in penalties as a result of an issue with her Good-to-Go account.

That's more money than she's ever even thought about paying for anything. And it's all from human error.

Porter knew she would be crossing the 520 bridge a lot between the Eastside and Seattle, so she signed up for a Good to Go account.

However, as a student living on a tight budget, she didn't have the state automatically take money from her bank account when it got low.

"I can't just have money coming out of my account any time, otherwise I'm just going to get a fee from the bank," Porter said.

But a perfect storm of issues turned her Good to Go safety net into a money pit.

Porter has $516 in tolls, $5,040 in fines. For every toll that went unpaid - she was slapped with nearly $40 in penalties.

"I kind of had a panic attack," Porter said.

First, a defective car sticker meant delays in processing toll fees. Then, when her account -- or any account -- runs out of money, there's no online notice showing the missed tolls. Instead they send a paper bill.

But when Porter moved, someone transposed a number in her change of address, so paper bills she didn't know about never reached her. And now she's facing a more than $5,500 bill.

Porter said the whole system is stacked against people.

"The key here is the address and what happened in the change of address," said WSDOT Toll Director Craig Stone.

Stone acknowledges that 10 packets of toll bills never made it to Porter. So they are asking an administrative law judge to reconsider some of that penalty.

At the same time, he said Porter often let her account get dangerously low by not feeding her online account often enough.

"If you are doing manual replenishment you do have to pay attention you have some ownership responsibility there," Stone said.

Porter said she's willing to take responsibility, but believes it's ridiculous in this technology-rich area that an online account doesn't notify owners if there are other toll fees outstanding.

Porter said it's not because she doesn't want to pay. In her opinion system is broken.

WSDOT is not saying if they are considering modifying the online Good to Go system so all of those toll crossings would show up but believe in general the system is working the way it should.