Puerto Rico House demands people be told when highway toll use will be charged
SAN JUAN – Rep. José Luis Rivera, the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, gave the Autopistas Metropolitanas of Puerto Rico (Metropistas) and the Highways and Transportation Authority (HTA) a Monday deadline to inform the committee when toll use will begin to be charged.
Rivera even recommended on Wednesday that a separate process be established for retroactive payment with the one established before Hurricane María.
“People should be informed when the deadline is. This situation cannot continue to be postponed. Because it has been more than a month, 42 days today, with this situation and there are people who have lost their jobs and continue to use the toll because they thought the toll was going to be free, but the toll will be charged. Of 42 days there are 37 days that have to be paid,” the legislator said during a hearing.
The petition came during the first public hearing on Resolution 67, filed by Rivera, to investigate when regular toll payments will begin and how users would be charged retroactively for payments that were not withheld during the emergency period after the impact of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20, as well as the estimated damage sustained by the island’s roads and bridges.
Metropistas Operations Director Xavier Serra, who oversees the North region, assured that tolls will not be charged from Sept. 20 to 24. However, he said each vehicle that passes a toll has been counted since Sept. 25. He added that it will be necessary, in coordination with the executive branch, to establish a process and date to start charging toll use retroactively, as well as a date when the normal collection system will be restored.
Attorney Juan Maldonado, legal adviser to Transportation & Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish initials) Secretary Carlos Contreras, said the department did not make a concession as Metropistas did, initially granting a grace period for the emergency. He explained that “while transactions were being recorded, Highways [and Transportaion Authority] was operating. In addition, as of today’s date, the Highway Authority has not determined what will be done to collect tolls.”
Rivera also recommended that a concession in the same fashion as that given by Metropistas, be considered for the same period.
Meanwhile, HTA Deputy Director Luis Rodríguez said the damages sustained from the impact of María reach $255 million and that “as of [Tuesday] there had been 4,252 incidents reported, of which 425 are landslides, 15 bridges and 25 roads are closed.”