FORT WORTH ––The Tarrant County tax assessor has drivers with more than 100 unpaid toll violations in his crosshairs.
"I'm going to block your registration if you don't pay your tolls," said Tarrant County Tax Assessor/Collector Ron Wright.
He says he'll start blocking registrations next week for the roughly 7,000 drivers in Tarrant County who have that many unpaid tolls. County commissioners approved the change unanimously on Tuesday. The Texas Legislature approved the power during the last session. Delinquent drivers had 90 days to pay off the fines.
"It grates on me when people skip out on things you and I have to pay for," said Wright. "If you don't want to pay the toll, don't use the highway."
The North Texas Tollway Authority says about 70,000 drivers habitually use the toll roads without ever paying. Their combined bill is roughly $53 million.
Tarrant joins Dallas and Denton Counties in helping the NTTA collect. Collin County Tax Assessor Kenneth Maun has declined to join, saying he would have to hire additional staff. There are 16,831 scofflaws in Collin County, an amount represents 21 percent of the outstanding tolls.
Wright says it won't cost Tarrant County anything and that the NTTA will pay 5.24 cents per blocked registration. The change was not a hit with everyone renewing their tags on Tuesday.
"We're all going to be riding bikes sooner or later," truck driver Cedric Goodacre grumbled.
He had to pay a $100 red light camera penalty before he could renew his registration.
"It’s like Big Brother to me," said Mat Hatfield.
He sees the new rule as sort of a rolling debtors prison. How can offenders pay if they can't drive to work?
“I just don’t think that’s a good way to go about that situation,” Hatfield said.
Toll roads have not been a fact of life in Tarrant County like they are in Collin County. But they will be soon, especially as the NTTA prepares to open the new Chisholm Trail Parkway from Fort Worth to Cleburne.