Sunpass To Be Replaced By New Program
By Claudio Mendonca
Transportation officials want to speed Florida toll-road driving with a new automatic-pay system targeted to debut next year in Miami-Dade County.
A statewide replacement for the SunPass program, the system will use smaller, sticker-type transponders. It is to be phased in on all toll roads after a planned launch in December 2006 at the Okeechobee Plaza on Florida’s Turnpike Homestead Extension.
"People who buy the sticker tag will drive under an overhead gantry and won’t even have to slow down at all," said Kevin Palmer, Florida Department of Transportation project manager.
Toll plazas will need remodeling before the system can be put into use. Homestead plaza upgrades are to begin in July.
The project is to be financed with toll revenues, Mr. Palmer said, and be less costly for drivers.
Mr. Palmer said 57% of Florida’s Turnpike drivers now use SunPass. With a more-affordable product, officials hope to increase users to 75% by 2008.
"The product will sell for less than $10," he said, "as opposed to the current $25 for SunPass."
The transponder project could be the beginning of removing toll booths, said Steve Andriuk, director of toll operations for the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. The agency oversees state roads 836, 874, 878, 112 and 924 – all of which would become part of the new system.
Mr. Andriuk said the authority is working on its own plan for open-road tolling, which he calls "the future" of highway travel.
Open-road tolling is a cashless, electronic system that requires drivers to have a transponder or it records license numbers to bill cars without one.
"Once you get 85% of toll transactions coming from the transponder," Mr. Andriuk said, "you can start thinking about taking toll plazas away."