Drivers claim they're being charged by mistake for using I-77 toll lanes

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A setting on the NC Quick Pass transponder is supposed to let drivers use the toll lanes on Interstate 77 for free.

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If you have at least three people in your car, you don’t have to pay tolls. You just have to switch your transponder to the HOV option.

But frustrated drivers reached out to Channel 9, saying they were still charged.

The Turnpike Authority told us the drivers we spoke with did everything correctly and will be getting refunds, but Eyewitness News reporter Joe Bruno dug into why the mix-up keeps happening.

Christian Suarez has a big family, so he said he thought the transponder would be a great option for his van.

"I-77 traffic can be horrible sometimes, Suarez said. "So, this is something we wanted to take advantage of."

They used the toll lanes several times with the HOV status displayed. When Suarez looked at his bill, he discovered irregular charges.

The charges were irregular, meaning in certain sections, the transponder was recognized as HOV, but in others it was not.

[Report: Nearly 200 more problems found in I-77 toll lane]

The Suarez family made three calls to dispute the charges but got the runaround. After Channel 9 contacted the Turnpike Authority, a spokesperson said Suarez did everything correctly and will be getting a refund.

Last week, Channel 9 also contacted the Turnpike Authority on behalf of another driver having the same issues. The Turnpike Authority also provided him with a refund.

"I would like to see them refund people with faulty charges," Suarez said. "If there are new instructions for people to follow then to publish them on a website."

Cintra, the company building the toll lanes, told Bruno the Suarez's 2018 Nissan NV van is too long to qualify as an HOV vehicle. The standards dimensions of a van is half an inch larger than Cintra's maximum size.

However, photos obtained by Channel 9 from Suarez show his van is several inches below the maximum size. The pictures have been sent to Cintra.

A spokesperson has not responded about whether Suarez will be charged again in the future since his van is below maximum standards.