‘SunPass only’ starts Feb. 19 on Turnpike

By Richard Yager….
Kendall motorists using Florida’s Turnpike should mark Feb. 19 as “SunPass Day” on the calendar. That is when the entire 46.4- mile length of Florida’s Turnpike Extension goes from cash collections to all-electronic tolling between US 1 in Florida City and the Broward County line.

Turnpike officials are promoting the date as a beginning of “The Less Stressway” to travel without stopping from Mile Marker 0 in Florida City to Marker 47 in northeast Miami-Dade.

Two projects needed to upgrade four main line toll plazas and convert the 33 ramp plazas to ORT (Open Road Tolling) combined cost an estimated $57.8 million.

More than 20 temporary lane closures between the northern and southern ends of the Turnpike Extension were announced during January as ramp work, signage and SunPass installations were under construction by the Turnpike Enterprise.

The new system eliminates cash payments at four toll plazas north of Florida City and the last exit, which at last count required $3.75 to travel. Deductions by SunPass equipment now will charge $2.75 for the same one-way trip.

Major projects have included removal of existing tollbooths and structures, toll plaza building modifications, roadway improvements, grading, drainage and pavement markings.

In addition, the Turnpike Enterprise began extensive improvements to the Snapper Creek service plaza in November to include a new 1,500-square-foot restroom facility, new canopies over gasoline service areas, LED site lighting, automatic windshield sprayers and a fenced pet walk area, with water availability on both sides of the plaza.

Without a prepaid SunPass account, “Toll-by-Plate” cameras mounted on overhead gantries photograph non-SunPass user license plates, charging registered vehicle owners any tolls due plus a $2.50 service charge for billing by mail.

Most drivers opt to purchase a permanently mounted “SunPass Mini” transponder for $4.99, credited forward for tolls and attached to the inner car windshield. Drivers then purchase additional mileage by regular deposits to their SunPass account.

To provide greater flexibility, SunPass also offers a portable unit at $25 that can be switched between cars. The price also is credited against future tolls.

Promoted extensively by turnpike officials as the “safer, more efficient and seamless” way to drive, it also will mean a non-stop journey from just south of Broward County through western Miami- Dade to near the Monroe County line.

Construction for SunPass conversion from US 1 to SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) began in November 2009. Work on the northern tier of the Extension from SR 836 to the County Line Road interchange began in February 2010.

Construction of the Homestead Extension was completed in 1974. Termed by turnpike officials as “the most heavily traveled segment of Florida’s Turnpike,” average daily traffic exceeds 178,000 vehicles at its busiest location, between the SW Eighth Street (Exit 25) and State Road 836 (Exit 26) interchanges.

For details on purchasing SunPass equipment and turnpike information, visit online at www.FloridasTurnpike.com; SunPass at www.SunPass.com or call 1-800-749-7453.

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