By Chris Hawley
NEW YORK — A Virginia truck driver used a device out that could have come from a James Bond movie to try to get out of paying the $65 toll to cross the George Washington Bridge into New York City, police say.
Nelson Vaquiz of Beaverdam, Va. was arrested on charges of using a cable in his truck cab to flip up his front license plate while going through a gateless toll lane on Interstate 95 without a toll transponder, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Thursday. Vaquiz had also bent up his rear plate so it couldn't be read by cameras, police said.
Truck drivers have complained about steep toll increases that the Port Authority says it needs to finish building the new World Trade Center in Manhattan. By 2016 a five-axle truck will have to pay $105 to cross the bridge.
Some drivers zip through the gateless express lanes on while obscuring their license plates so the Port Authority cannot track down and bill them. These toll cheats cost the Port Authority $14 million in 2009 and 2010.
"Our police department takes this very seriously and are on the lookout for such maneuvers," Port Authority Spokesman Ron Marsico said. "Hopefully this will serve as a lesson."
Vaquiz went through the E-ZPass lane on the New Jersey side of the bridge with a truck carrying pipes at 6:35 a.m. on Saturday, police said.
A Port Authority police officer saw Vaquiz's license plate drop back into place and ordered the driver to pull over, but he did not stop, Marsico said. Other police officers forced him to stop before he could go over the bridge, Marsico said.
Police impounded the truck. Vaquiz, 36, was charged with theft of service, possession of burglar tools and eluding arrest. He was released on bail.
Calls to his business phone in Beaverdam were not answered.
The arrest was first reported by the New York Post.
The Port Authority says traffic over its Hudson River crossings has plummeted because of the economy and it needs the additional money to complete the new World Trade Center and to make upgrades to its bridges and on-ramps.
On Sept. 18 cash tolls for a five-axle truck rose from $40 to $65, and they will continue to rise gradually to $105 on Dec. 6, 2015.
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