SunPass: Florida to resume paying company that botched toll system

And motorists are once again getting charged for late fees and penalties.
A view of the I-275 northbound Sunpass lane at the Skyway Bridge photographed in 2015 from a reporter's car. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
A view of the I-275 northbound Sunpass lane at the Skyway Bridge photographed in 2015 from a reporter's car. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
Published June 10, 2019

Florida’s Department of Transportation will resume paying the company that botched the rollout of a new SunPass system last year, officials announced Monday.

Conduent State & Local Solutions will start getting paid by the state each month, like it was before the company took over processing transactions on the Florida’s SunPass tollways a year ago.

But some of those payments might be smaller than the company anticipated.

The state has fined the company the maximum 25 percent of its monthly payments for invoices the company has submitted since June of 2018. That adds up to about $8.3 million so far, transportation officials said Monday.

“We have imposed the maximum penalty allowable under the vendor contract," transportation department Secretary Kevin Thibault said in a statement Monday. “This is part of the Department’s ongoing commitment to hold Conduent accountable and ensure customers receive the level of service they deserve.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: How Florida’s SunPass debacle started in 2012

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State officials said Conduent’s software was “completely overwhelmed” when it took over processing the state’s tolls last year, quickly creating a backlog of millions of transactions and leading to some motorists being overbilled for their tolls.

In the fallout, the department suspended late fees and penalties for motorists who didn’t pay their tolls on time.

But that policy ended this month, the department also announced Monday.

Motorists who don’t pay their bills on time for tolls that occur after June 1 could see a $2.50 administrative fee — or more — tacked on to their bill.

Paul Wai, the executive director for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, said in the statement that Conduent’s customer service center have seen call wait times drop from an average of more than 20 minutes per call to less than five minutes.

Conduent won the estimated $600 million tolling contract in 2014 in a highly contested bid process.

Even though Conduent’s competitors had better scores and were cheaper, state transportation officials deviated from their bidding policies and lowered their minimum requirements to award the contract to the New Jersey-based company.

Then, when one of the competitors protested, state officials made the highly unusual decision to pay the competitor $3.6 million to go away.