Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration wants to eliminate a monthly maintenance fee on E-ZPass transponders and move administration of the program to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne Jr. told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that the administration “takes a little different view” of the fee than did the administration of Gov. Bob McDonnell, which imposed it in mid-2012.
Layne said he is working with Sen. John C. Miller, D-Newport News, on legislation that would give the Virginia Department of Transportation until Sept. 1 to devise and carry out a plan to eliminate the fee — currently 50 cents a month for a standard transponder and $1 a month for a deluxe “flex” model.
“We take the view that this is something we’ll work on,” he told the Senate Finance transportation subcommittee.
Layne also said the administration is working to transfer the administration of the transponder program from the Virginia Department of Transportation to DMV, a move applauded by Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan.
Watkins had questioned VDOT officials about the decision to impose the monthly fee. “Why is that fee not embedded in the toll operation?” he asked.
VDOT officials said the fee was necessary to reduce the cost of administering the E-ZPass program and ensure the transponders were properly used, but Layne agreed with Watkins that the fee should not have been passed on to motorists.
“That’s what I was trying to draw out, quite frankly,” Watkins said later. “I’m glad that Aubrey spoke up.
“I just think that that’s the wrong policy, that they did not include that in the toll,” he said of the maintenance fee.
The state imposed the fee on July 9, 2012, citing the cost of administering E-ZPass through open-road tolling on such highways as the Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway in Richmond.
Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, applauded the McAuliffe administration’s decision to eliminate the fee. Loupassi tried unsuccessfully last year to pass legislation to get rid of the charge.
“Awesome!” Loupassi said when told of Layne’s statement. “He’s helping me fight the man.”
Loupassi had urged legislators last year to help him “fight the man” by supporting his bill to eliminate the fee.
“Don’t let the man do this to you,” he said Wednesday. “Don’t nickel and dime us and find ways to get money out of us.”
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