Florida's Turnpike begins Toll-by-Plate in Miami-Dade - first step to AET
By Peter Samuel
Florida's Turnpike made the first step toward implementation of all-electronic toll (AET) operations with the beginning of toll-by-plate midnight Monday night (2010-10-11) on the southern 47 mile (76km) stretch of the Turnpike in the Miami-Dade area. Known as the Turnpike Extension (previously HEFT) from Mirimar looping a bit west and south to its end around the edge of the Miami Dade metro area it ends in the Florida City/Homestead area. Mostly 6 and 8 travel lanes the Miami area Extension contains four mainline toll points (one a split plaza by direction, so arguably five) and 33 ramp tolls.
Cash collection continues for the moment, and the present plan is to continue that through to some point in February 2011. On one designated day at a designated time all the cash toll booths will go unstaffed and their approaches are barricaded off. That will be about four months from now, masking this southern section of the pike cashless or all-electronic toll (AET).
There will follow six months of demolition and cleanup work to remove old cash toll lanes, booths and other structures and equipment.
No sign of cash collection a year hence
By about this time next year all signs of traditional cash toll collection are likely to be gone.
The Monday midnight change ends the practice of defining use of a electronic toll (brand SunPass) lane without a transponder as a "Violation." Cameras which were previously generating a violation notice as of midnight started generating a toll bill. The bills which total up trips over a 30 day period will include a $2.50 TBP administrative fee added to the amount of the tolls due. Actual toll rates for TOLL-BY-PLATE are the former cash tolls which are at a premium - usually 25c - more than SunPass.
The Turnpike is encouraging motorists to sign up for a transponder (SunPass) with a focussed advertising effort. 'SunPass Mini' with an eGo sticker tag from TransCore is virtually free for the motorist - $4.99 upfront but with an equal toll credit when first used. SunPass tags are available online at www.sunpass.com, by telephone at 888-865-5352 (TOLL-FLA) at Publix, CVS, Navarro, Sedarno's stores, AAA, many gas stations and Turnpike service plazas.
Recent SunPass usage in this Miami area has been 76% of transactions overall and over 80% in peakhours.
Toll bills not violation notices with no transponder
The toll bill instead of a violation notice goes out in the mail to motorists is found by reference to motor registry databases based on the camera reads, automatic optical character recognition and operator image review.
This applies at roll-through single lanes (signed for 25mph) still remaining at regular toll plazas, and also at the mainline plazas with open road tolling - now three of the four.
Signs go up
The other immediate change that has generated local news reports is the erection of scores of TOLL BY PLATE signs on sign gantries up and down the Turnpike Extension between MPzero and MP47. This will take about a week.
Prime contractor supplying the new toll equipment and writing the systems code is Raytheon.
Already scheduled is an extension of all-electronic tolling north through the Golden Glades Interchange as far north as Fort Lauderdale. That extension of AET is presently planned for opening in 2014.
Overall cost of the conversion to AET is around $58m.
For motorists the benefits of AET are said to be:
- Safety, by eliminating lane choice decisions and stops at the toll point
- Convenience, no lines or needing to slow or stop for toll payment
- Environmental, less air pollution from free flow vs stopping, idling, acceleration
- Savings, lower fuel consumption
The Turnpike has savings in operating costs by eliminating toll collector and cash handling positions, slightly offset by higher back office costs and uncollectible tolls.
Where AET is happening
AET is being incorporated in most new tollroads in the US. This includes the TX121 Sam Rayburn Tollway in Dallas TX, the Westpark Tollway in Houston TX, the Triangle Expressway and other tollroads in North Carolina, Manor Expressway in Austin TX, WV/US35, and the Inter County Connector in Maryland.
All eight HOT or managed toll lanes (91 Express Lanes, I-15 San Diego, I-394 and I-35W in Minneapolis, WA167 Washington state, I-95 Miami, I-15 in Salt Lake City UT, I-680 in San Francisco Bay Area CA) are all-electronic.
Conversions to AET have been implemented at E470 and the Northwest Parkway in Denver CO, on the President George Bush Turnpike in Dallas TX, and the 183A tollroad in Austin TX.
In the Miami-Dade area conversion to AET is well underway with deployment on Gratigny Parkway (SR 924), Don Shula Expressway (SR 874) and Snapper Creek Expressway (SR 878) in the June/July period this year.
AET will be introduced to the remaining tollroads - Airport Expresseway (SR 112) and Dolphin Parkway (SR 836) over the next year or two.
The Dallas North Tollway and the Atlantic City Expressway NJ have AET conversion under way.
AET conversions are planned for the Henry Hudson Bridge on the northern tip of Manhattan NY as a pilot project with a view to eliminating cash collection at the other ten toll bridges and tunnels in New York City.
The Port Authority New York New Jersey is procuring a new toll system designed from the bottom up to allow AET to be implemented.
A number of US tollers have build individual interchanges with AET. That includes New York State Thruway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission - the latter recently announced it was seeking a feasibility study for AET including benefits and costs, different approaches and transitional strategies and staging.
Open road electronic tolling with highway speed traffic through the middle of toll plazas with cash collection to the sides is in place at a number of major toll systems and simplifies conversion to AET. The ORT gantries already provide the heart of AET. Barricading off of cash lanes, new signage and and demolition are the main civil engineering required for ORT-AET conversion, plus advertising & PR, beefing up camera systems and back office billing.
ORT toll systems that will make for reasonably straightforward conversion include the Illinois Tollway's four big tollroads, the Foothill Eastern and San Joaquin Hills Toll Roads in Orange Co CA, five OOCEA tollroads in the Orlando FL area, the major tollroads in Houston TX, DE-1 and the new DE/I-95 toll plaza and the New Hampshire NH/I-95 toll plaza recently opened in Hampton NH.
Maine Turnpike has the option of going AET on its biggest toll point near York at its southern end. The Turnpike Authority still prefers a plan for open road tolling (ORT) and cash at the sides at a newly constructed plaza, but faces formidable local opposition, a consultant report saying AET is the better deal, and federal regulators who have demanded AET be considered as an option for the EIS permitting.
(This list is written from memory and we welcome corrections/additions - editor)