22,000 warning letters sent in error for crossing the Hatem Bridge

As many as 22,000 "Notice of Warning - Speed Violation" letters were sent to drivers who crossed the Hatem Bridge recently. Maryland Transportation Authority officials say this was an error and the letter can be ignored.

PERRYVILLE — Chances are if you crossed the Thomas J Hatem Memorial Bridge since Oct. 16 you have received a “Notice of Warning- Speed Violation” letter from E-ZPass and the Maryland Transportation Authority.

According to John Sales, spokesman for MDTA, more than 22,000 letters were mailed in error because speed sensors on the bridge, which were in place for the toll plazas on the Perryville side of the bridge were not deactivated when cashless tolling went into effect Oct. 16.

“Customers can disregard the notices,” Sales said via email Wednesday. “We have stopped mailing the warning notices.”

Sales said if the letters had been enforced there would be no fine assessed regardless. However the letter indicates that a second violation within a six-month period could result in a loss of the transponder for up to 60 calendar days.

On social media, some drivers report receiving multiple letters to their address.

Sales said there are no speed cameras on the Hatem Bridge but there was a system in place to monitor speed as drivers approached the now defunct toll plaza. It was there for the safety of the public and MDTA staff in and around the toll booths.

“Deactivation of the equipment at the Hatem toll plaza was not coordinated with full implementation of gantry tolling collection,” Sales said in that email. “Administrators have taken corrective action.”

Cashless tolling, according to state transportation officials, will save Maryland $28 million over five years because the technology is faster and more efficient. That also translates into less traffic bottlenecks, no loss of time by slowing down to pay a toll and the accompanying fuel savings.

However, those who do not have an E-ZPass transponder will pay $12 to go across the Hatem Bridge instead of the $8 one trip cost or $20 per year for unlimited travel with the Hatem-only plan.

Last month a contingent of members of the Maryland General Assembly, including Delegates Al Carr from Montgomery County and Mary Ann Lisanti, representing Cecil and Harford counties, sent a letter to MDTA asking for a delay in the cashless tolling launch, to no avail. The letter spelled out misgivings the group had about the costs, back logged appeals, and lack of expedient notification when there is an issue.

Sales said Thursday that the cost of each letter was about 94 cents, a cost that would be absorbed by the agency.

“It falls within the routine costs of doing business,” Sales said.

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