Turnpikes to keep SunPass users from slowing down

Published: Monday, January 22, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 11:04 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Drivers who pay electronic tolls on Florida's Turnpike will begin zipping through booths at 70 mph under a plan that will also steer cash customers to the side of the highway, transportation officials said.

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Construction begins today to replace the booths at the Okeechobee Toll Plaza in northwest Miami-Dade County with a gantry that will allow drivers using the wallet-sized SunPass transponder to pay without slowing down. Cash customers will be directed to toll booths in separate lanes.

Officials plan to convert all the highway's toll plazas to favor SunPass users in the coming years.

SunPass users are charged to their credit card or bank account linked to the transponder, which is mounted on a driver's windshield.

Critics complain that many cannot afford the $25 transponder, and people without credit cards or bank accounts are not eligible for the system. But some SunPass-only high-speed lanes have already been installed on other highways, drawing rave reviews from drivers who fly by without slowing down.

Currently, about 1.7 million, or more than 50 percent of turnpike motorists, pay tolls with SunPass. Officials predict up to 90 percent will choose to pay electronically during the next decade.

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