A few months back I had to drive down to Norfolk for an appointment. My GPS rerouted me to avoid traffic so I ended up going through the Downtown Tunnel where “Pay-by-Plate” is active. If you do not have an EZ Pass to pay tolls on Virginia Highways, you either pay cash, debit or in certain instances, “Pay-by-Plate” which means there is no toll booth or attendant. You simply drive through the tunnel and technology scans your license and sends you a bill. Sounds easy enough right?
Well I discovered that easy isn’t cheap. A few months after my trip, I received a bill for $30 from DriveERT. The bill consisted of a $5.00 toll, and a $25.00 late fee. Late fee? Had I missed a bill?
I called the Drive ERT number listed on the bill and asked about the late fee. What they said shocked me. “No, you have not missed a bill. We don’t send out bills anymore. We only send out late notices if you don’t go to our web site and pay your toll before the bill is due.” Well, how do I know when the bill is due if I don’t get a bill? “Your bill is due as soon as you exit the tunnel.” Their answer made sense. I received a service and should pay for that service. But what they are doing is changing the universal rules of bill paying, making the customer seek out a bill on a website. Did I mention that in order to find your bill, you have to create an extensive online account with DriveERT, including your birthday and driver’s license number?
Let this be your warning that if you ever travel in Downtown Portsmouth or Norfolk and have to use the tunnels, make sure you have EZPass or pay as soon as you exit. Or you too will be hit with a 500% service charge.