Drivers ticketed during bridge standoff

The headache thousands of commuters endured during last month’s standoff on the Bay Bridge did not end with the arrest of the suspect. Now, many drivers who were ordered to turn around at the toll plaza are being ticketed for doing so.

FasTrak, the electronic payment system, automatically sent tickets to drivers that fateful November day because the computer cannot differentiate between toll cheats and police activity, said spokesman John Goodwin of the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“The computer is not smart enough to cancel everything,” Goodwin said. “It automatically records these violations and sends tickets.”

On Nov. 11, Craig Carlos-Valentino, 52, of Antioch parked his sport utility vehicle on the upper deck of the Bay Bridge around 7 a.m. and threatened to blow up the span. He claimed the distress was due to his wife of 20 years having an affair. His 16-year-old daughter was in the SUV with him.

Carlos-Valentino was arrested and charged with felony kidnapping, false imprisonment, child endangerment and making a false bomb threat. And he faces misdemeanor counts of brandishing a firearm, resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license.

A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9.

Jill Okimoto was one of those drivers stopped near the toll plaza while Carlos-Valentino threatened the lives of many commuters.

Okimoto said she was in her car for a “long wait” before she was allowed to pass through the toll and turn around.
It took her two hours to get to work, not to mention locating a BART station to go into The City. The entire ordeal cost her time and a $36 ticket from FasTrak. Though she has been able to have the ticket dismissed, she needed to appeal to FasTrak before it admitted the mistake.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Okimoto said. “They sent me a letter explaining that it was an error that I received a ticket. It was quite the ordeal.”

Goodwin said commuters in a similar predicament as Okimoto need not worry. If they simply appeal the ticket and tell the MTC it was issued during the standoff, the violation and the ticket will be wiped clean.

“We’ll sweep everything,” Goodwin said. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Halting traffic on the Bay Bridge

Craig Carlos-Valentino threatened to blow up the Bay Bridge on Nov. 11.

280,000: Daily commuters on bridge

Unknown: Tickets issued day of standoff

$36: Fine for turning around at toll plaza

1 hour: Length of standoff

0: Injuries

Source: MTC

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