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Crosstown Expressway to ditch toll booths by fall

TAMPA — Regular drivers of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway know well the feeling of waiting in line during rush hour to pay tolls.

Even Sun Pass users need to slow down at least a bit to get through toll booths.

But that will change come September when the road switches to all electronic tolling, the road's operators said Friday.

"There's still a cash option. You just don't pay it on the road," said Joe Waggoner, executive director of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

The new system will still charge drivers who use Sun Pass to pay tolls.

More than 75 percent of the expressway's tolls are collected through Sun Pass, Waggoner said.

But Sun Pass won't be required once the toll booths are demolished.

For the occasional user or those who don't want to buy a Sun Pass, video cameras will snap pictures of vehicle tags as they travel at highway speed past collection spots.

The tag number will be matched to vehicle owners, who will get a bill in the mail that can be paid with cash, credit card or money order. Bills will be mailed out within seven days of the first use of the roadway.

After that, bills will be sent every 30 days.

Drivers will have 30 days to pay the bill. Additional notices for unpaid tolls will be sent after 30, 60 and 90 days, with late fees tacked onto the bill. After that, tolls that remain unpaid will be sent to a collection agency. Drivers who still neglect to pay tolls will get a traffic citation.

About 58 toll takers will lose their jobs as a result of the switch, Waggoner said.

The Expressway Authority decided to go to all-electronic tolling now because much of the equipment on the road that connects south Tampa to eastern Hillsborough County needs to be replaced, Waggoner said.

"We're not the first by any means to do this," he said.

Plans call for roads in Miami-Dade County to go to all electronic tolling this summer, he said.

The new system should save the Expressway Authority $1 million a year.

And for drivers, Waggoner said, it means less likelihood of fender benders at toll plazas, better traffic flow, and fuel savings by eliminating stops and starts.

"Bottom line," Waggoner said. "You save fuel and time, you're going to save money."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Crosstown Expressway to ditch toll booths by fall 04/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 23, 2010 9:21pm]
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