House approves bill to reduce Puerto Rico highway toll fines
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico House of Representatives approved, with amendments, Senate Bill 642 to reduce administrative fines for passing through AutoExpreso highway tolls without the required balance to $15, from $50.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman José Luis Rivera filed the amendments to the Puerto Rico Vehicle and Traffic Act after public hearings on the bill’s analysis concluded.
“The idea is for it to be $15 per day,” Rivera said “but the [toll vignette, or sticker] must be registered. For those who go through the toll without a registered [sticker], they will have to pay a fine of $200 instead of the $100 in force, and the agency delegated, the Transportation & Public Works Department / Highways [& Transportation] Authority, will have 90 days to attend administrative hearings, since they are behind by two years.”
He also recommended it be declared mandatory that the digital toll sticker be registered to the vehicle’s owner or lessee, as well as the prohibition of license plate duplications and related penalties.
“The mandatory registration of digital stickers is necessary because out of 3,063,676 highway users, only 1,724,054 have a registered digital sticker,” the legislator said.
Senate Innovation, Telecommunications, Urbanism & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Miguel Laureano had previously investigated numerous citizen-filed complaints about AutoExpreso’s collection and fine review process.
“We understand that there is a distinction between a fine for not paying a toll and others because it does not constitute reckless behavior that endangers the lives of others on our roads. In addition, the investigation we conducted into the toll-collection system’s operation has raised serious questions about this process, so we believe it is fair for our citizens to reverse the amount of that particular fine from $50 to $15,” the senator said.
As part of the investigation, a hearing was held during which drivers were able to present their complaints and submit their documents to the committee. In addition, a visual inspection was carried out at the AutoExpreso offices as well as a surprise visit to the Drivers Service Center of Caguas.
Laureano believes the bill would be passed by the House and that the governor would enact it.
“This is not an amnesty, it is the way to be fair to the people at a time when the execution of the company in charge of the collection is questioned. In addition, the difference between that and other fines is evident,” he added.