New painted roadway signs on the South Bay Expressway will make it easier for commuters to choose the correct lane when they use a tricky portion of that toll-road.
The change couldn't come soon enough for Marti Kilby, who recently got a $60 ticket for failure to pay that $3 toll.
Kilby and her husband were returning home from dinner in the Eastlake area, and used the Expressway to speed their trip.
Kilby says it was a dark and rainy night, and she says the signs that show which lane should be used by motorists with a "Fast Trak" pass, and which lane should be used by those paying with cash or credit card, were not clearly marked.
By the time Kilby realized she was in the wrong lane, and couldn't pay the toll, she says it was too dangerous to back up, change lanes, and get in the correct lane to pay that toll.
A few days later, she got a citation in the mail from the Expressway, requiring that she pay that $3 toll plus a $60 non-payment penalty.
"According to the South Bay Expressway, I avoided the toll," says Kilby.
She appealed that citation, and the Expressway's executives ruled in her favor, sending her a letter explaining that her "toll evasion occurrence was valid" but still requiring her to pay a $10 penalty, in addition to the $3 toll.
Kilby calls that a "total rip-off", and says she should not have to pay a $10 fee "for what is really their mess-up."
But Expressways Chief Executive Officer Greg Hulsizer defends the $10 fee. He says the rest of the penalty was waived as a "courtesy" to Kilby, but that the Expressway must recoup some of the cost of processing the citation. Hulsizer says all drivers should know they must pay a toll to use and toll road, and if they can't pay it when they enter the toll road, they can phone the company or use its website within four days to pay that toll, plus a two dollar processing fee.
Kilby still isn't satisfied with that explanation, and has a bigger complaint about the Expressway. She says the signage leading up to the on-ramp does not give motorists enough warning that they must be in the right-hand lane to pay the toll, and avoid the left-hand lane, which is only for "Fast Trak" automatic pay users. "You have no way of knowing which lane to get into until it's too late," says the Fletcher Hills resident. "I'm sure I'm not the only driver whose that's been caught in that situation."
While Hulsizer, the Expressway's CEO, disagrees, and thinks the signage is clear and appropriate, he told NBC San Diego that new, improved road markings will now be added to the northbound toll road on-ramp, at Olympic Parkway.
Hulsizer says the Expressway's management is "always looking for ways to improve... so certainly when we get a concern like this we take a look at it and see if there's something we can do, because we're all about making it easier for our customers."