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Puerto Rico gov cancels toll road company contract, driver fines

By on September 17, 2018

SAN JUAN – Gov.Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced Monday that he will cancel all AutoExpreso toll fines that have not been paid as of Sept. 17; signed the bill that lowers fines from $50 to $15 and ordered the cancellation of the contract with the company GILA LLC, which administers AutoExpreso.

“The toll has to be paid,” said the governor to the recurrent question of whether tolls would not be charged either.

Questioned about the drivers who have paid the AutoExpreso fines, he said that the citizens who assumed their responsibility won’t be reimbursed.

As to whether the island’s fiscal control board approved lowering the fines, Rosselló Nevares replied that the federally created entity under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa) had objections to the change. He added that the board argued that revenue from the payment of fines will be almost neutral.

“When the fines were at $15, 120,000 people paid their fines. When it went up to $50, 42,000 people paid,” the governor said.

Based on the numbers provided by the chief executive, $1.8 million was collected when the fines were at $15. At $50, $2.1 million was generated.

The cancellation of GILA’s contract–covered by the provisions of Section 24.4 of the agreement to operate the Electronic Toll Collection System (ETCS)–was informed Monday in a letter delivered to the company’s toll operations vice president, Luis Alberto Sánchez.

According to the contract, after a cancellation, GILA must continue operating the system for 90 days while a new operator is chosen to run the system with the new specifications.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Highways & Transportation Authority (HTA), Carlos Contreras Aponte, rejected GILA’s argument that their would be a loss of more than 400 jobs.

“The majority of those employees are not from GILA, but from companies that provide GILA services through subcontracting and that also served the former operator, TransCore. Therefore, it is highly probable that the company that replaces GILA will keep these providers, whose employees already have the necessary experience and knowledge to continue operating the system.”

He assured that the departure of GILA does not imply that the fault in the process of fines to Metropistas is waived and the situation that brought the change to the booths and toll station hike.

“We are reviewing…GILA, but it does not mean Metropistas is off our radar. We are reviewing everything, and everything [means] everything,” the department secretary said.

The signed bill does not contain the provision prohibiting the collection of fines in cases of registered stickers without a balance to address any fiscal concerns.

HTA’s fiscal plan establishes revenue of about $100 million over five years as a result of the AutoExpreso fines. However, since 2015, while the administrative fine was $15, an average of $21 million a year was collected. Under this same premise, the income projected in the certified fiscal plan would be met.

The governor expressed his support for House Bill 1723, which establishes a fair process for reviewing administrative fines.

The measure establishes that once a request for review is submitted, the government has 60 days to investigate. The driver’s review request will have no cost, can be done via postal mail, fax or email and the driver will have the right to have evidence of the AutoExpreso account that produced the fine.

Also, the measure establishes that the government will be responsible for presenting evidence of the violation, not the driver. If the process is not complied with, the fine will have to be eliminated.

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