No compatibility in sight for E-ZPass and Florida toll system

Dr. Delay | Navigating Pinellas
Lorrie Lykins
Lorrie Lykins
Published August 23 2017

When is the Florida DOT going to accept E-ZPass on its toll roads? Orlando's Central Expressway accepts it.

Catherine Needham

Electronic tolling in Florida is not easy to figure out. Orlando's Central Expressway accepts E-Pass, which can be used on all toll roads and most tolled bridges in Florida as well as in North Carolina and Georgia. E-ZPass is accepted in 17 states mostly in the northeast, but is not usable on Florida toll roads.

The time frame for this to happen, if it ever does, remains elusive. We asked the Department of Transportation to fill us in on this frequently asked reader question back in June. After six weeks and an additional nudge, we heard back from Chad Huff, spokesperson for Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, who told us that Florida's SunPass is accepted in Georgia and North Carolina, and will be accepted in South Carolina soon (no date provided).

But in terms of SunPass and E-ZPass becoming what is referred to as "interoperable," Huff said things are complicated.

"Efforts are continuing to make SunPass interoperable with E-ZPass, however given the fact that the E-Z Pass consortium represents nearly 40 different tolling agencies, it makes the necessary cooperation with that group extremely complicated. In the meantime, SunPass has made the hardware and software upgrades necessary and stands ready to accept E-ZPass transponders when the time comes," Huff said last week.

When that time might be is murky at best.

A few years ago, a much-needed traffic light was installed at the entrance to our mobile home park (Briarcreek Boulevard/McMullen-Booth Road). Because we are a relatively small intersection, waits are long to exit our park onto McMullen-Booth; at rush hour, very long. I believe that there is a traffic sensor south on McMullen-Booth, but often we wait through the normal cluster of traffic from a green light cycle, and then still wait while looking at an empty road, northbound. What is the traffic sensor for?

Howard Olsen

We shared your question with Norm Jester, signal coordinator with Pinellas County traffic management. Jester told us that the signal at McMullen-Booth and Briar Creek is part of a coordinated system, which means that these coordinating signals must run the same cycle length as the busiest intersection on the corridor. The busiest intersections in this case are Curlew Road and State Road 580.

"Sometimes, at a very minor intersection we can get away with exactly half the cycle length, but depending on the spacing of the signals, traffic patterns, etcetera, that could create stops for traffic on McMullen-Booth. During peak traffic periods, our main objective is to move traffic on McMullen-Booth, and that is one of the busiest corridors in Pinellas County," Jester said.

Jester explained that the traffic sensor you mentioned counts vehicles and essentially shares that information to alert the system as to the number of vehicles that will arrive at the next intersection and in how many seconds. But the signal still must wait for its set time in the cycle before it can change.

Email Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns and questions. Follow @AskDrDelay.

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