RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you have an E-ZPass, and you think you've escaped the Virginia Department of Transportation's monthly fee for the device, think again.
The uproar was loud and clear when VDOT first proposed adding a dollar monthly fee for all users. Nearly 25,000 commented on VDOT's website.
"We listened to their concerns and we made some adjustments," said VDOT spokesperson Shannon Marshall.
Bowing to public and political pressure, the agency revamped its plan to a 50 cent monthly fee for new users as of July 9th. Existing customers will be charged if they add a transponder or exchange one of their current transponders.
But herein lies the issue: your E-ZPass runs on an internal battery and eventually that battery will die.
VDOT even admits it.
"Yes, when it comes time that your transponder needs to be replaced or the battery goes out you will have to have it replaced and at that point you will incur a fee," said Marshall.
You can't pop this open and replace the battery yourself. You have to turn it in. VDOT estimates the batteries last from 8 to 10 years. Other states estimate the battery could die between 5 and 7 years.
Either way, unless VDOT changes the rules, you will eventually have to pay the 50 cent monthly fee for having the device.
"It's something that we are going to evaluate as time goes on. So, I really can't say whether the fee will increase or go away," said Marshall.
There is a way to avoid the monthly fee once your EZ Pass battery dies. The blogosphere promotes getting an out-of-state account. The local website called "Virginia Right" even lays out for you, how much each state charges.
There is no monthly fee in Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island and there are a number of positive reviews online from people who ordered their devices from Massachusetts. There's also no fee to get the transponder in that state and they'll ship it to you for free.
If you'd like to look over the pricing for each state check out this website: http://www.varight.com/news/how-to-avoid-vdot-smarttag-fees-get-an-out-of-state-ez-pass-account/
You'll also find the information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-ZPass
There is a bill headed before the General Assembly this January seeking to stop VDOT from imposing monthly fees.