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SunPass not compatible with other states' EZ-Pass, but was cheaper

How popular is the SunPass? According to data from Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, more than 5 million SunPass transponders are in use throughout Florida, meaning that roughly one in three Floridians has a SunPass, a nice convenience for those of us who use them.

But avid road-trippers know that several states and even some parts of Canada use the E-ZPass system for toll roads, allowing motorists to travel through tolls seamlessly, making a trip from New York to Illinois, or from Maine to Canada, for example, less of a hassle. Considering the number of tourists who use Florida roads throughout the year, some folks wonder why Florida chose the SunPass system rather than E-ZPass.

Reader Carol Gannon of St. Pete Beach posed this question to the Doc, noting that the convenience to Floridians, as well as visitors, would be a huge plus.

We got in touch with Christa Deason, spokesperson for Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, who filled the Doc in on the time line in terms of the early days of collecting tolls electronically and how Florida ended up with the SunPass.

In the mid 1990s, just a handful of states were using the technology. As each state chose a system, it selected one that best suited its needs. For example, Texas was the first state to implement electronic toll technology in 1989, but when New York selected its E-ZPass system in 1993, it turned out to be incompatible with the Texas technology.

Deason said that when Florida was looking at its options in 1996, the system that would eventually be known as SunPass offered the most customer-friendly features such as display of account balance and audible tones that provide immediate feedback, and it cost the state millions less than other systems.

"While changes to transponder features have been made over the years, those original features were important in helping to facilitate rapid adoption of this new technology. Equally as important is the fact that the winning bid for the SunPass system was $29 million lower than the next highest bid, which happened to be E-ZPass technology," Deason said.

The SunPass folks say that while it's probably true that visitors from the northeast might want to see their E-ZPasses accepted here, Florida customers haven't indicated much of an interest in making the SunPass system compatible with other states. And eventually, all electronic toll collection technology will become "interoperable," probably within the next decade, Deason said.

Crumbling Coffee Pot bridge will be fixed

If the road on the east side of the bridge that goes over Coffee Pot Bayou to Snell Isle seems to you to be caving in, you're not mistaken. Reader Nancy Sanford has noticed it and says it is a return of a problem that occurred several years ago.

"I've resorted, again, to pulling a little to the left to avoid the shock absorber bashing one gets on the right front tire mostly, but also to the rear right. I remember that I was told the problem was scheduled to be repaired back when this first happened shortly after the bridge was refurbished, and it was fixed. But the problem has returned,'' Sanford wrote the Doc.

Thomas Gibson, the city of St. Petersburg's engineering director, says repair work has been scheduled to begin Nov. 15 on both approaches to the bridge, as well as to the bridge superstructure and substructure. This will involve replacement of the crosswalk pavers so workers can fix the settlement problems. One lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained at all times, Gibson says. Work should last about two weeks.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Please e-mail Dr. Delay at docdelay@yahoo.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.

SunPass not compatible with other states' EZ-Pass, but was cheaper 11/06/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 1:56pm]
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