Time is closing in on drivers who have consistently evaded tolls on the Atlantic City Expressway.

The South Jersey Transportation Authority recently sent letters to nearly 147 individuals and companies who owe at least $200 in unpaid tolls, reminding the motorists that they have days left to pay up or face losing their vehicle registrations.

Plans were announced last year for SJTA to partner with the state Motor Vehicle Commission on in an initiative to suspend the registrations of the most egregious toll offenders if they don't satisfy their bills.

Those offenders were first warned in August. If they don’t soon make payment or make arrangements to meet with SJTA to mediate the outstanding balance by Feb. 7, their registrations will be suspended, SJTA spokesman Kevin Rehmann said.

“These people are long overdue paying these tolls,” Rehmann said. “The letters have been sent, and that gives them the opportunity to resolve the issue before the suspension takes place.”

The program is intended to help the agency recover at least some of its lost revenue. A review of toll offenders by The Press of Atlantic City last year found that the authority had been gypped out of more than $123,000 by high-frequency offenders in less than two and a half years.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has also adopted the more aggressive approach, last year targeting offenders with $1,000 in toll violations on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. In less than a year, the authority received payments or arranged payments with 37 percent of the offenders for a total of $154,000.

The threshold for NJTA's offenders is higher because its highways have more tolls and more travelers. Still, the missed revenue for SJTA is not insignificant. While those targeted in SJTA's program owe at least $200 in tolls, once administrative fees are calculated into the mix, the final bills total thousands in some cases.

With fees, the authority is owed $1.15 million from the nearly 150 offenders.

Still, that doesn’t mean that SJTA will recover that full amount. The most recent letters sent by the authority tell the offenders to make payment or schedule a mediation session with authority officials to discuss what’s owed.

“If someone owes $1,200 and they come in and say they can’t pay it, they might agree on $1,000,” Rehmann said. “They can also set up a payment plan, but if they default on a payment after that, whatever deal was set up is off.”

SJTA currently has meetings set up with offenders through Jan. 31.

Motorists can also dispute the charges entirely by requesting a formal hearing through the state Motor Vehicle Commission.

The new program will not catch all of the roadway’s major offenders. The state has the authority to suspend registrations of New Jersey drivers only. A review of the expressway’s top offenders last year showed that two of the top 10 violators are from out of state.

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