Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida won’t renew SunPass contract with troubled contractor, transportation secretary says

The announcement came just days after a Times/Herald story about problems with SunPass at Florida’s airports.
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 Jul. 10
Updated Jul. 10

Click here to read this story in Spanish

Florida’s transportation department won’t renew its contract with the company that botched its takeover of the SunPass tolling system last year, Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault told the Times/Herald during a Wednesday interview.

State officials will instead re-bid the second half of what had been a 14-year deal with Conduent after the New Jersey company’s failures led to customers getting overbilled and suffering long wait times at the tolls.

“It is not our intent to renew it,” Thibault said, though he didn’t elaborate on the reasons behind the decision. “I’ve already told the team, ‘Let’s start talking about the next procurement.’”

Kevin Thibault, FDOT secretary [FDOT]

Conduent would remain the SunPass contractor through 2022, which covers the first seven years of its contract with Florida. But Thibault said Florida wouldn’t exercise its option to renew with Conduent for the second half of the contract, which extends to 2029. Cutting the contract short would cause Conduent to miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars in public money.

Thibault’s announcement came two days after the Times/Herald reported that SunPass problems persisted at Florida’s airports, where malfunctions and server outages caused recent backups and customer overbillings.

RELATED: ‘Serious disruption:’ SunPass breakdowns leave Florida airports fed up, new records show

How Florida’s SunPass debacle started in 2012

Florida to resume paying company that botched toll system

Thibault told the Times/Herald that he was unaware of some of the problems until seeing the story, including a detail about how the Orlando International Airport was still waiting to be reimbursed for $1 million in SunPass parking fees.

“On the executive level, we were not aware of that at all,” he said.

The Times/Herald reviewed thousands of Tampa International Airport emails, which revealed airport officials were frequently frustrated by Conduent’s responses — or lack of responses — to problems with SunPass. Airport guests can use SunPass transponders to pay for parking at the airport.

Thibault did say that many of the airport issues were not Conduent’s fault. But, Thibault said, Department of Transportation officials should have been made aware of those conversations between Conduent and airport officials to make sure problems got resolved.

In response to the story, Thibault said he’s asked the director of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, which oversees SunPass, to reach out to each airport to make sure they’re dealing with state officials with their problems.

“Our goal is always to try to work with our partners to try to help get to some resolution,” he said. “If you’ve got an issue and you need to elevate it, let’s work with us so we can have the right people in place to make sure you’re getting that response that you need.”

He added, “There were some conversations that we weren’t made aware of until it bubbled, or kind of elevated (this week).”

Thibault also announced a new promotion: Heavy users of the state’s toll-by-plate system will get a free SunPass transponder in the mail with their bill along with an encouragement to sign up for automatic tolling.

Thibault said despite SunPass’s history over the last year, it’s now working well on the state’s toll roads and is easier for customers than the more cumbersome toll-by-plate system. The department is still working out the details of the plan.

“We need to be as proactive as we can with our customers,” Thibault said. “And this is an excellent opportunity to be able to do that.”

In 2015, Conduent won an estimated $600 million contract to process SunPass transactions. But it beat out competitors who were both cheaper and scored higher with state evaluators. Two companies filed bid protests that revealed state transportation officials had lowered the minimum requirements and deviated from department policies to award Conduent the job.

Last year, one of Conduent’s major shareholders hosted a fundraiser for former Gov. Rick Scott, who had also invested in the company. And Gov. Ron DeSantis received $35,000 from the same family for his campaign for governor.

DeSantis appointed Thibault to the job in January, and since then, the Department of Transportation has fined Conduent more than $8 million.

Thibault said they’ll have an “open and fair procurement” for the second seven years. Conduent will be able to bid for it, but one of the key metrics for winning will be the company’s history, Thibault said.

“Clearly it’s going to be past performance, and it’s going to be their capabilities. Do they have the strong capabilities that we’re looking for?” he said.

Conduent has had similar failures with its tolling systems in other states.

Under the terms of the contract, the most the state can withhold from the company is 25 percent of its invoices, and that’s what they’ve done so far, Thibault said.

Conduent isn’t the only company that could face additional penalties, either. Transportation contractors HNTB and Atkins oversaw parts of the bid process and the rollout of Conduent’s system.

A state inspector general is investigating what went wrong with Conduent’s system, and Thibault said he expects the state’s inspector general is looking into the performance of HNTB and Atkins, too.

“If there’s failure to perform, each one of those contracts have performance expectations,” Thibault said.

He said he expects the inspector general’s report by the end of the summer.

Times Political Editor Steve Contorno contributed to this report.










ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, speaks during a Senate special session concerning Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' dismissal of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Wednesday Oct. 23, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    Sen. Annette Taddeo was one of several Democrats across the country who fell victim to the hacks.
  2. The New York Times newspaper on the shelf at the Citrus County Library Lakes Region at 1511 Druid Rd. on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 in Inverness. The Citrus County Commison was looking to eliminate the cost of the New York Times digital subscriptions because they say it is "Fake News." A former Mets GM has stepped up and wants to donate money to the Citrus County Libraries to cover the cost of the subscriptions. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After Citrus commissioners voted down the digital subscription, library leaders say they cannot accept thousands of dollars from GoFundMe pages.
  3. President Donald Trump is greeted by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., looks on, after Trump’s arrival on Air Force One at Miami International Airport in April 2018. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS | AP
    Despite rumors, Rubio said he intends to complete his current term, which runs until January 2023.
  4. Lev Parnas leaves his arraignment with his wife, Svetlana Parnas, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 in New York. He and Igor Fruman are charged with conspiracy to make illegal contributions to political committees supporting President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Prosecutors say the pair wanted to use the donations to lobby U.S. politicians to oust the country's ambassador to Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP
    Ballard Partners, a powerhouse firm founded in Tallahassee by Republican lobbyist and Trump confidant Brian Ballard, was subpoenaed along with a South Florida businessman and a fundraiser.
  5. Should we stop changing our clocks twice a year? CHARLES KRUPA  |  AP
    The Republican senator, along with Sen. Rick Scott, introduced the Sunshine Protection Act earlier this year.
  6. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez. Gov. Ron DeSantis is in the background. [Wilfredo Lee | Associated Press] ASSOCIATED  PRESS
    Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez said the mission was productive and companies are already following up on connections they made during their three days in the country.
  7. Marco Rubio
    Rubio’s bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would sanction Chinese officials involved in undermining ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and put the quasi city-state’s special...
  8. Democratic presidential candidates from left, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., former technology executive Andrew Yang and investor Tom Steyer participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP
    Seventeen candidates remain in the race, but only 10 Democrats qualified to make it on stage in Atlanta for the fifth Democratic debate.
  9. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Barbara Lagoa, who is the first Hispanic nominated by President Donald Trump to be confirmed for a U.S. Court of Appeals vacancy out of 48 judges. Miami Herald
    “Trump’s already had five appointees to the court, it’s already a much more conservative court than before and it might be the second most conservative court in the country,” said one law professor.
  10. Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) NATI HARNIK  |  AP
    The latest Democratic debate, hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, will take place amid impeachment hearings in Washington.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement