SunPass drivers unite. It’s time to protest the lack of compatibility with E-ZPass, the 16-state electronic toll collection system in the Northeast and Midwest.
Congress mandated the systems work together by October 2016 and it still hasn’t happened. Transponders should roll.
Snowbirds, truckers, border-state dwellers and vacationers know what we’re talking about.
We’ve grown accustomed to whizzing past vacant tollbooths with the help of SunPass. It’s convenient, better for the environment and reduces labor costs, too.
But E-ZPass still doesn’t recognize SunPass. Nor does SunPass talk to E-ZPass.
So to avoid long tollbooth lines in the other’s region, we’re forced to open another account and add another transponder to our windshields.
What’s the hold-up here? And why doesn’t Congress hold someone accountable for missing this deadline — by years?
We’re talking simply about one electronic system being able to collect tolls from people registered in another electronic system, then sharing the revenue while protecting driver information.
If SunPass can take photos of drivers’ license plates for later billing, why can’t its leaders create E-ZPass compatibility? It makes you wonder how much money Florida is losing in today’s set-up.
Former Florida Congressman John Mica discovered the glitch one Thanksgiving when he was driving home from Washington D.C. with his E-ZPass card. When he hit the Florida border, his tollbooth-free ride was over.
Because he chaired the committee that oversees highway issues, Mica decided to do something about it.
He added a paragraph to the 2012 highway funding authorization that mandated compatibility of electronic toll collection throughout America.
Do it by Oct. 1, 2016, the mandate declared.
But “Just do it” didn’t work. We’re promises away from a unified, go-anywhere, tollbooth-free system.
Florida did work with Georgia and North Carolina on reciprocity, but couldn’t cut a deal with South Carolina. And Texas hooked up with Kansas. But on the whole, the system remains in idle.
It’s not for want of trying, if testimony from all involved is to be believed. Some states have laws that stand in the way of compromise.
Plus, toll collection enterprises can cover tunnels, bridges and parking lots, too. Clashing technologies is one obstacle, they say, but the bigger dilemma is the ability to bill the right party and send the collection to the right state, turnpike authority or bridge system.
Still, this is the 21st century. We’ve taken close-up pictures of Saturn, for Pete’s sake.
Members of the Alliance for Toll Interoperability, an association of state transportation leaders formed to address the problem, say lack of funding also is an obstacle. The cost of just a study on compatible technology is $3 million, if you can imagine.
After reviewing hours of testimony and reams of paper describing this failed effort, you can’t help but feel the bureaucracy monster is sucking the air out of it. Imagine what would happen in the face of strong opposition.
While Mica is no longer in office, four members of Florida’s congressional delegation now sit on the U.S. House Transportation Committee. They are: Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach; Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens; Brian Mast of Palm City in the Treasure Coast; and Daniel Webster of Winter Garden, near Orlando. And Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.
The committee’s stated mission: “Together, we must work to build a 21st century infrastructure for America; one that looks for long-term solutions to our challenges and embraces American innovation.”
We’re confident that given their positions, they could figure out a fix.
We encourage you, too, to encourage Frankel, Wilson, Mast, Webster and Diaz-Balart to press the accelerator. For when it comes to making SunPass compatible with E-ZPass, it’s time to get the lead out.
A version of this editorial first appeared in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.