Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
Remember those old highway toll plazas where drivers still paid with cash? Well, the Florida’s Turnpike still had some standing in Palm Beach County and they, too, will be a thing of the past.
Construction crews are nearing the end of a three-year project to eliminate all the cash toll plazas at Glades Road, Atlantic Avenue and Boynton Beach Boulevard.
The exits will convert exclusively to all-electronic tolling, which uses mounted cameras and sensors to bill drivers through SunPass or their license plate.
The $20 million construction project is expected to be completed in the fall.
It’s part of a large-scale effort by Florida’s Turnpike to transition away from cash plazas.
Miami-Dade and Broward have already converted to all-electronic tolling, according to documents from Florida’s Turnpike. Additionally, there are plans to extend all-electronic tolling 144 miles north past the Boynton Beach Boulevard exit through Kissimmee.
By making the switch, drivers should experience some improvement at those areas.
Cash plazas, which require drivers to come to a complete halt, can often lead to traffic delays and potential accidents. With all-electronic tolling, drivers can navigate the popular pay highway without having to deal with those issues.
Nick Uhren, executive director for the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, believes it’s a “fantastic operational improvement” and that it should help improve traffic flow, especially at busy intersections such as Glades Road in Boca Raton.
While that exit already had separate SunPass lanes, slowdowns at the pay lanes could create a bottleneck during rush hour.
“If you’ve got cars backed up that are trying to pay their tolls, you’re basically delaying cars behind them the ability of getting to the green light while it’s there and it just creates inefficiencies, so I’m excited for the project,” Uhren said. “I think it’s going to do a lot of good.”
All-electronic tolling has become increasingly popular across the country.
Breaking News Alerts Newsletter
As it happens
Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.
On Florida’s Turnpike, drivers will have two options to pay: SunPass or toll-by-plate. SunPass allows drivers to place money into an account, which will then be billed when they drive through a toll plaza. Transponders cost $4.99 and $14.99. Drivers save roughly 25% by using this option, according to SunPass.
If you don’t have SunPass, cameras at the toll plaza will take a picture of your license plate and a bill will be sent in the mail. The one potential trade-off with the all-electronic tolling is that it potentially increases the difficulty to collect the tolling revenue from people who don’t use SunPass.
“The nice thing about a system that says you can’t pass until you pay is that everyone who passes pays,” Uhren said. He adds that if you move toward a system where you send a bill, now you’ve “put yourself into collection mode” where you have to chase people for money.
Drivers who fail to pay after receiving a second invoice can be referred to a collections agency and have a registration stop placed on their name, which prevents the driver from registering their vehicle.