Commuters who use the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway have been writing the Doc asking about the toll situation. Some readers have heard that cash will not be accepted in the future and that drivers will be required to purchase a SunPass to use the toll road.
Reader Hilda Berk wrote: "I have read that the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway will not take money and that a SunPass will be needed. When will this start, or has it already started? I do not use the expressway that frequently, so why must I have to purchase a pass that costs too much for my pocket?"
We asked the folks at the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority what the story is. Susan R. Chrzan, the agency's communications manager, said the goal is to convert to electronic toll collection on the Selmon by September, but SunPass won't be the only payment option. "Drive now, pay later" bills will arrive in the mail.
Chrzan said 75 percent of motorists on the expressway already use SunPass and that the changeover is a cost-saving measure. "The cost for us to collect cash, maintain the machines, etc. for that remaining 25 percent takes over 50 percent of our budget,'' Chrzan said. "Also, the cash tolling equipment is so old that it needs to be replaced — also very expensive."
Chrzan said SunPass users save a quarter at each toll. As for the option, "we'll simply take a picture of your license plate and send you a bill. The first bill would come seven days after you first ride the road and then every 30 days thereafter. Those tolls would be at the 'cash' rate. … If you don't drive the road (or toll roads in general) very often, then it might be better for you to simply receive a bill in the mail."
There are several ways to set up a SunPass account and options for types of passes. Visit sunpass.com for information or call toll-free 1-888-865-5352.
A few gas stations go extra mile; a few mislead
Last week's column about the dwindling number of old-fashioned service stations that offer help with windshield washing or checks of tire pressure and fluid levels struck a chord with lots of readers.
Several lamented that while the age of automation has enhanced speed and convenience, it has also contributed to the demise of old-fashioned neighborliness and the art of customer service.
In searching Pinellas County for a few traditional service stations, we learned that even AAA has discontinued maintaining a list because there are so few left. So we invited readers to tell us about local full-service gas stations. The good news is that there are a few in St. Petersburg.
Barbara G. Turchiarelli and John Bassett told us about Dave & Michelle's BP-Amoco, 7424 Fourth St. N, and Gretchen Dagefoerd and Barbara Spech told us about Bob Lee's Tire Co., 1631 Fourth St. N. While the prices may be a little bit higher, the service is excellent and delivered with a smile at both stations, readers say.
Another followup to last week's column is this message the Doc received from reader Randy Syracuse, who wrote to say he has been burned by misleading gas prices on roadside signs that drew him in, but then he'd discover at the pump that restrictions and requirements apply.
Syracuse wrote: "Gas stations are required by Florida law to post accurate pricing. If the price on the pump is different than the price on the sign (for example, lower price per gallon for cash transactions) the gas station must display 'cash price' on the sign in letters of sufficient size. There is a toll-free number posted on every gas pump: call it and report violations. Someone from the state will check it out and report back to you. I have done this and have seen the offending gas stations change their signage."
Webinar March 10 to unveil Florida projects
Interested in what the state DOT has planned? The agency will host a free statewide webinar March 10 at 2 p.m. to introduce the Florida Transportation Plan, which will lay out long-range goals over the next 50 years.
For the uninitiated, a "webinar" is a seminar that is broadcast via the Web, so you can attend from any computer that has Internet access.
Just register ahead of time, then log on and watch. Here's how: Go to 2060ftp.org and register to attend online.
If you do not have Internet access, you can attend in person at locations around the state. For information, call Paula San Gregorio at (850) 414-4811.
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