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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Don't Drive the E-470 in Denver, CO: The Toll Road Rip Off

Rant warning! ! !     

(Added note:  Be sure to check my update to this nightmare here.)

Something has been plaguing me since October.  Remember my trip back to my nephew's wedding?  Well, it was a beautiful drive, great to see the family, nice trip, etc.  What I didn't tell you about was that there was a dark side to that trip.  A nightmare that doesn't seem like it will have any end to it.

It started innocently enough, I was traveling down I-76 towards Denver.  Looking at the map, there was a scenic drive indicated for going up through Rocky Mountain National Park, which was one of the places I wanted to revisit on the trip.  I have been through there a few times, but it had been many years since my last visit.  It looked like taking the E-470 over to the 72 was the way to go.

The first omen that this was a bad idea should have been when I tried to make the transition from the 76 to the E-470.  I ended up having to take quite a drive on side streets to finally find a way to get on it.  It was marked on my map as a toll road, but I thought the small amount I probably would have to pay would be worth the most direct way to get there.

The second omen should have been the fact that although it was a weekday, in a fairly major metropolitan area, there was hardly any traffic on the road once I got on it.

The third omen should have been that there didn't seem to be any way to pay the toll.  I kept expecting to find a tollbooth somewhere along the way, but  . . . . none appeared.  It sure didn't seem like they wanted to collect any money.  There wasn't anything that indicated how the darn thing would be collected. No signage, nothing.  I mean, I wasn't from the area, so . . . who knows?  I thought maybe the map had been wrong, or they decided to end it being a tollroad or something.

The nightmare began just a few weeks after I got back home.  I got a bill in the mail, but it looked like junk mail, so I didn't open it right away.  Then a couple of weeks later, I got another one, so I finally decided to open it and see what in the world it was.  Not only did I get a bill for the toll, they charged to send the bill.  Then, because they sent another one just a couple of weeks later, they charged an additional amount to send it that time, too.

So, I sent them the money, with the late fees added on . . . a total of $4.20 as billed.  End of story, right?   . . . WRONG!  I got another bill, with even more added on to it.  I thought maybe my payment had just crossed in the mail with it, so I just set it aside.  Then a couple of weeks later, I got another bill, this time, with an additional $5 late fee added on.  Just between October and January, the original $3.70 (plus a 60 cent fee each time they mailed) bill was now over $10.  AND, I had paid the darn bill and they were still sending me a bill with additional late fees, etc.

So, I sent a copy of my cancelled check, showing that they had in deed received and processed my payment with a little note and thought that would be the end of it.

WRONG, again ! ! ! !  A couple of weeks later I received another bill, with an additional $25 fee.  Just 2 1/2 months after I took the road, the bill is now over ten times the original bill.  They must be run by the mafia.  I don't think even loan sharks make that kind of interest.  Now, I am fuming.  And apparently, according to the online search I did after I got slapped with that additional fee I wasn't alone.  I googled "toll road rip off", and guess what showed up right at the top of the list . . . yep . . . the E-470 in Denver.

Wow, I was surprised and shocked at the horror stories I read.  I couldn't believe the good people of Colorado put up with this "highway robbery".  Apparently, the news stations and newspapers in the Denver area have been exposing quite a few issues with the E-470 and the management (or lack there of) of said toll road.  It was sickening and I just felt like the latest victim.  I was picturing myself being added to the list of people who were being billed hundreds or in some cases, thousands of dollars over a stinking $3  and change toll bill.  And, an attitude by the toll employees that you were some low-life criminal who was just trying to ditch the bill and should now be punished severely and forever for the sin of taking their precious toll road.  And, if you don't pay . . . they will mess with your credit and the registration for your vehicle.

Anyway, I finally got a response to my letter and they said they would waive the $5 fee, just this once, and I shouldn't ever do it again.  They made it sound like they thought I was just trying to skip out on the toll, but they would let me slide, just this once.  And, I HAD paid the bill! ! ! ! ! !  And, I would have preferred to just pay it when I was on the road, right at the time I was there and be done with it.  But, their response didn't say anything about the additional $25 or all the additional 60 cent charges for mailing me all those bills even though I had already paid it.

So, I got mad.  I sent a letter to the governor pointing out all the stuff I found online about their toll road, let him know that at this point, I had had such a bad experience with them, that not only did I never want to take their toll road again, I wanted to avoid Colorado at all costs, and copied in a whole list of news agencies, etc, as well as the toll company.  I wanted them to stop harassing me to pay a bill that was already paid.  I wanted the whole thing to be considered as paid in full and didn't want to receive any further requests to pay any of the additional fees they piled on.  I also mentioned that it was amazing to me how they treat the tourists coming through when they depend so heavily on tourism.  There were literally only a half dozen cars on that road the whole time I was on it.  Obviously, the locals know better than to get on that road.  AND, I saw they even raised the tolls effective this January.  OMG! ! ! !

It has been nearly a month now and I haven't received any other bills . . . . YET.  I haven't heard a thing yet.  I am hoping that means I have heard the last of them, but, based on all the things I read online, I'm not holding my breath.  I'll keep you posted!

**UPDATE**  While still composing this post, I got ANOTHER bill.  This time from a collection agency . . . for $50.75.  The balance is rising exponentially.   $3.70 toll on Oct 4, to $50.75 just 4 months later.  I am in the wrong business! ! !  On a bill that had been already paid!  Incredible! ! !   I will NOT pay these additional charges!  I PAID the bill back in December! ! ! ! ! ! ! !      They have a statement on it that is bolded:  "If this matter is not resolved, Northwest Parkway may add civil penalties of up to $250 per violation, plus court costs, pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 43-4-506.5.  Pursuant to the statute, Northwest Parkway may subject you to additional fines, fees and non-renewal of your vehicle registration."  I consider this to be extortion at this point and I refuse to pay these illegal charges.  How on earth can they keep tacking on additional fees to a bill that had been paid? ? ? ?  It is like you can never get out of this vicious circle even when you pay.  So, what, I pay this $50 bill and then they bill me an additional $300? ? ? ?  On a $3.70 toll? ? ? ? ?  I have additional letters to write now . . .

It would seem that there are some issues with toll roads in Texas, Illinois and Florida as well.  It has to do with toll roads where you are not given an option to pay at the booth, because there aren't any booths.  I can't speak for the other states, but the E-470 in Denver does NOT clearly state what you will be up against if you take their toll road.  There is nothing that indicates you will be billed or that there are any other options, such as: that you should go online to find out how to pay.  (This is what the news agencies reported the toll reps said people should do . . . as if we are born knowing that!  There sure weren't any signs on the road advising that is what you should do.  I, for one, would NOT want to give these crooks access to my credit card to bill at will whatever and whenever they like.)

Most of us are used to paying at a booth when we get on a toll road.  Since most toll roads throughout the the US have the same way of operation, it would seem only right and fair that if one is going to be operated differently, there should be some very large and visible signs letting you know what to do and to expect.

Anyway, I have learned a very big lesson.  AVOID all toll roads, you never know when you will be caught in this horrible vortex. 

Here are some links you might find interesting:








One of the travelers on this road had a 40 cent CREDIT with the toll road and they CHARGED her huge late fees on the money THEY OWED HER!  It is truly UNBELIEVABLE!  I would have liked to post comments on some of the sites, but they all require a login to leave one, and since I don't plan on making regular comments, I didn't create a bunch of new logins just to leave my 2 cents worth.  So, I am adding my voice here.

For now, I think I can cross Colorado off my places of places I want to go.  If I want to ski, I have Mammoth, CA or Park City, UT.  If I want mountains, I have the Sierras.  I can't think of anything Colorado has that I can't find elsewhere.  And, if I need to travel back to family again, there are other routes.  Routes that don't go through Colorado.  Those will be the ones I take!   I'll spend my tourist dollars on states that don't go to such lengths to screw the people traveling through.

I strongly suggest you avoid the E-470 in Denver!  It's the only way to keep from being victimized by this unscrupulous agency!  Who knows when they will stop sending me higher and higher bills.

In fact, since Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and the good citizens of Colorado are doing nothing to stop this type of harassment, I'd even go so far as to say; BOYCOT COLORADO!  Maybe that will finally get their attention.

If you have had a problem with them, I'd be interested in hearing your experience as well!  If you know of anyone planning a trip to Colorado, do them a favor and WARN THEM! ! ! !




21 comments:

  1. It is like a whirlpool not letting you go. Have you contacted the LA Times Travel Editor? Every week in the Sunday paper the editor deals with travel problems and I think you may have found someone who may help you get the Colorado Monkey off your back. Or make T-shirts that read Ban E-470.
    Dennis

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  2. Hey, Dennis! It is a nightmare. I just sent off letters to all the news agencies around Denver who have been covering this, their governor, the toll road, the collection agency and a whole bunch of others. I'll check into your tip for another route to try! Thanks!

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  3. Typical government all about stealing money. The police do this all the time too. I made a very minor mistake turned right on red with a posted no turn on red sign. I missed the sign because it was in an unfamiliar area to me and wasn't posted in it's normal place. I told the police officer that given the fact this was my first time ever pulled over I thought he would be understanding and let me off with a warning. Nope he was a tyrant and wrote a outrageous 79$ ticket. I fought the ticket in court explained everything to the judge but all he cared about was dropping points. I had broken my arm a couple days after I got my ticket and didn't drive for 3 weeks anyway. Nobody was threated and what I did was a very trivial offense. There was no reason for the ticket not to be dropped or at least reduced other than for theft purposes. I have tried to avoid the city of Waukesha WI as much as possible. So I was victimized in Waukesha just as you were on E 470 thanks to our tyrannical government that only cares about the theft of our money.

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  4. Got a bill in the mail yesterday from E-470 for $19.50 in tolls from 8/8/13. Now, the problem is that E-470 is near Denver, Colorado and I live in ILLINOIS! I have not been in Colorado since the 1970s!!!! None of my vehicles have EVER been in Colorado! I filed a complaint with the Colorado Attorney General's Office of Consumer Complaints. If you google this E-470 tollway ripoff you will find complaint after complaint. These guys are crooks giving Colorado a bad name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, unfortunately this happens to quite a few people. Apparently, they have difficulties reading the license plate numbers and just guess. Then innocent people are hounded for tolls for which they should never have been billed. The agencies in charge are totally uncooperative when you try to tell them there is an error with their billing.

      It is atrocious and there should be major penalties for these unscrupulous agencies to compensate for the harassment they dish out and the aggravation and time people have to spend to try to fight unfair bills and penalties.

      I'm sorry you were yet another victim, but thank you for your input.

      Delete
  5. I just found out about this mess and the people with the best results contacted the Attorney General's office. It's unbelievable they have gotten away with this for so long. I really hope something is done to right these wrongs!
    The only way to use toll roads in CO is to use the Express Toll sticker where an account is set up. Unfortunately that won't help those that visit our state but I will tell everyone I know now not to use the toll roads without it. We may be added to the list of scammed since my son drove on E-470 a few months ago and didn't receive a bill either. We shall see!

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    1. I am so sorry to hear this is STILL going on! In my opinion, the operators of the road should be jailed for highway robbery.

      I would strongly suggest that your son contact them now rather than waiting for a bill. They seem to use that delay tactic to purposely run the bill up to a few hundred or even thousands of dollars -- blaming the driver, the post office or whatever they find convenient. They seem to expect that drivers should just "KNOW" they are supposed to go to their website to pay their bills. I, personally, would not allow these crooks access to my credit card info and would opt to send them a check instead, but at least you would be able to find out how much they have already jacked the bill up to. Keep in mind . . . there may be multiple agencies involved as in my case. You may have to check multiple websites - one for each portion of the road traveled. If you haven't already, you may wish to check out my update to this post. There is a link to it at the top of this page.

      Good luck and stay off their . . . "precious" . . . toll road! ;)

      Delete
  6. Hi - just thought you would like to hear from someone in Colorado. I too got caught in the toll road 'whirlpool'. Not from E-470 but from it's neighbor - The Northwest Parkway. I never even heard of it until I got a collections notice from them.
    I actually use E-470 about twice a month - and yes, you have to be careful. I pay online, and then call to make sure I owe them no money.
    I guess I stumbled on NWPW - which connects to E-470. Would have been happy to pay the toll - if I had even realized I had one. No communications or invoices. Funny how the collection agency had no problem finding me.
    So - I wanted to let you know that there is someone in Colorado doing something about this. I've contacted every agency, consumer group (BBB), and politician I can think of. I've sent copies of my complaint that I filed with the State Attorney General to news media. I warned the NWPW I was NOT going away and will continue to turn up the heat.
    All I wanted to do was pay a toll. And they decided to pick a fight.

    There is another proposed toll road in the front range - the Jefferson Parkway. It has a lot of critics. I actually contacted their director and commented to him that most of the detractors are actually not against a toll....but have been ripped off by the billing practices of the existing toll roads in the front range. Hence - the roads are empty, as Colorado drivers are scared to drive them.
    Thanks - you can contact anytime.
    Chris

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  7. Chris, thanks for the info! I wish you luck in dealing with these people. Many of the people I have read about/heard from are very interested to know if the "lawyers" representing the toll roads are truly taking homes away from people/ruining credit, etc over these ridiculous fees. I would be very interested to hear updates and/or any information on how much teeth they really have! Thanks for taking a moment to read/comment!

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  8. i myself have a bill from E470 after i used the carpool lane. My charges are up over $144 from late fees. Funny thing is i tried to pay it in the beginning just to get rid of it at $5, but the lady couldn't even tell me what i had done and wouldn't take my $5 because my charges were up over $20 already and it's the first i'd even gotten the letter. They said it was my responsibility to pay charges even if they don't send a bill, but i told her i never used the toll road. The carpool lane (situated in 2010 in the lane next to the toll lane with nowhere else to go if a car was stopped in it) is supposed to be free if there are two or more people in the car, so why would i think that i owed them something??? Yes, i'm angry. Even though the bill says you can contest it, the people on the other end of the E470 line and the attorney line are nasty and not willing to help you figure out how to dispute your bill. They are insulting. Obviously they are incapable of helping people out of a problem, so i have a huge issue with them even though i didn't use their road in 2010. i have huge fines and fees i won't pay since i've still never gotten proof of any violation. Now i'm in danger of not being able to register my car. Does ANYONE know how to fight them??? i don't know what else to do!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I am very sorry to hear of the trouble you are having. I'm afraid to go anywhere near any toll road now because of the unscrupulous people who seem to be in charge of them. The faulty photo enforcement/lack of information/etc is just not working. I would suggest that you try contacting the Colorado State Attorney General's office. That was going to be my next move if I hadn't gotten it resolved. If you saw my related post/update I listed all the things I tried and what finally worked for my situation. My most sincere wishes that you have good luck with getting your situation resolved. I TOTALLY understand your frustration!

      Delete
    2. I just received a statement from express toll for $1.40 . It said
      I was on E-470 at 64th ave north on 3/22/14 at 7:09 am. I have not been out of Iowa or the city in years! Don't they send a picture? I don't know what to do .this is a shame and I don't have time money or energy to deal with this, my car won't even be driven out of town its so old.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous, just based on what I went through, I would strongly suggest to take a bit of time to deal with this early, because those penalties start adding up VERY quickly. If you have any kind of proof as to where your car was on 3-22 at 7:09am I would call them and make arrangements to send it to them as soon as possible. They make a lot of mistakes like that when they can't quite read the photo. They just guess and send a bill. I would call them even if you don't have proof.

      It will end up being cheaper in the long run. And hopefully, you won't get some rude clerk if you do. A lot of people have mentioned they don't get much satisfaction that way, but it would be the place to start. Document everything. Then, if they don't resolve it, I would definitely contact the Colorado State's Attorney's office with your documentation. I think this is unconscionable that they are getting away with such harassment for so long. Many people have gotten bills when they have never even been to Colorado.

      I spent sooo much time on it at a time I really didn't have the extra time to waste due to their bad business practices. I am sorry you are yet another victim of their scam. Good luck!

      Delete
    4. I give Northwest Parkway Authority the lowest rating possible, and promise to be their worst advertising ever. They failed to send me an original invoice for my use of the parkway. Instead, NPA's first invoice included a penalty for "late payment". The penalties appear to be automatic with use of the parkway, and the penalties continue to accumulate while you are contesting the original penalty. Here's the scam they're running:

      Eventually you pay the current amount due plus penalties, even though it's many times the original fee, or it goes to a collection agency, and there goes your credit rating. They know that it's not worth your time to take it to Small Claims Court. Even after you have paid the amount due, they continue to harass you.

      Scum.

      Delete
  9. I'm in the same boat. What a scam. There has to be a way to stop this.

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    1. I'm truly saddened that it is still going on. I avoid all cashless toll roads now because of this experience. The toll roads in my area have also now gone cashless and I have never put wheels on those roads and never plan to. Although, not traveling on the roads doesn't mean you'll never have a problem if they misread a license plate and get yours via random error, which has apparently happened on more than one occasion.

      Delete
  10. I also just got scammed. Today I have received a "Notice of debt" from the collector for unpaid tolls for Northwest Parkway. I've never received any bills prior to this, and I don't recall ever using this toll road either. I have used E-470 once in my life in 2013 and paid the bill right away.
    This ripoff has been going on for years now. It's unbelievable.

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    Replies
    1. I think everyone who gets in this situation has to write to the Colorado lawmakers. If they get inundated with enough complaints, surely they would have to do something. I know I sent a few letters to some of them until I got a response, but I was one voice. If enough voices come together and start making a noise they can't just ignore, maybe then they will put an end to this abuse.

      Delete
  11. Problem:
    There is currently a kickback scam going on between the Nortwest Parkway Toll Authority of Denver, Colorado and the law firm of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair, Samson. They lied and said they sent 3 notifications before I was fined for not paid toll fees on highway E-470. I never received any notification of any type before the law firm collection agency sent me a bill for over 4 times what I originally owed. I do not live in Colorado and my state has very few toll roads. They take advantage of this for out of state drivers. I had recently returned from an overseas deployment and was taking a cross country trip in June to see the country that protected and this is what the state of Colorado and this lying law firm does to me.

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  12. Problem:
    There is currently a kickback scam going on between the Nortwest Parkway Toll Authority of Denver, Colorado and the law firm of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair, Samson. They lied and said they sent 3 notifications before I was fined for not paid toll fees on highway E-470. I never received any notification of any type before the law firm collection agency sent me a bill for over 4 times what I originally owed. I do not live in Colorado and my state has very few toll roads. They take advantage of this for out of state drivers. I had recently returned from an overseas deployment and was taking a cross country trip in June to see the country that protected and this is what the state of Colorado and this lying law firm does to me.

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  13. David, I am very sorry this is still going on after all these years. I saw article after article where the same thing was happening to other people as well. They never received any notifications until the so-called law firm got involved and the fees had become astronomical. The agencies always try to make the unsuspecting driver out to be some criminal who was trying to take something from them, when the reality is, it is their practices that are unethical and criminal. I ended up on the toll road from some little side street where there were no notifications of any sort that stated how I could pay the toll, so I thought it had perhaps been de-commissioned as a toll road. Then the notices started arriving. It certainly had the appearance of some under-handed scheme between the two agencies. I think it might be a good idea for everyone who was affected by this to contact the Colorado state agencies involved. Perhaps if they get enough complaints they will finally do something about it. For my part, I am voting with my wallet . . . I will never do any further business in Colorado, I avoid any layovers in the state, will not drive through/visit again, etc. If enough people do the same their revenue stream will start to dry up.

    ReplyDelete