Dueling Agencies Mark Their Territory, Confusing Drivers
Some Florida toll roads will begin accepting the E-ZPass toll transponders starting Saturday, September 1, 2018, the Central Florida Expressway Authority announced this summer. That date comes nearly a near after CFX, which operates the bulk of the toll roads in the Orlando metropolitan area, originally announced E-ZPass compatibility, in November 2017. The original compatibility date of April 2018 was twice delayed, primarily due to administrative issues surrounding collections and remitting of payments, said Brian Hutchings, CFX spokesman. The technology to read the E-ZPass, he said, has been in place for well over a year.
Roadways And Interchanges Only Partly Compatible
However, using E-ZPass in Florida will be tricky, at best, because the compatibility only extends to the Orlando metropolitan area. Even on roads where the E-ZPass will be accepted, key interchanges and roadways will not be compatible with E-ZPass. Adding to the confusion is the reality that sections of some roads will be incompatible, while other sections of the same road will be compatible with E-ZPass.
More confusing, still, is that some interchanges, themselves, will also be only partially compatible. That means drivers can use one set of entrance or exit ramps with their E-ZPass, but not another set of ramps within the same interchange. The compatibility issues are detailed in a compatibility map CFX released earlier this month in an effort to ameliorate confusion.
At one key interchange, where Florida’s Turnpike meets up with the Central Florida Greeneway (State Road 417), ramps from the Central Florida Greeneway to Florida’s Turnpike will not accept E-ZPass, unless you happen to be traveling south on 417 and want to go south on Florida’s Turnpike. If you are traveling northbound on Florida’s Turnpike and want to go north on the Central Florida Greeneway, your E-ZPass will work in that direction, too. But E-ZPass is not accepted on the other ramps of the same interchange. Florida’s Turnpike is operated by Florida’s Department of Transportation, and the Central Florida GreeneWay is partially operated by CFX and, in part, by FDOT.
Florida DOT Lacks E-ZPass Agreement
It is a problem, Hutchings admits, the CFX simply can not overcome without help from the state of Florida, which co-operates many key roadways with the CFX, including the Western Beltway, the Beachline Expressway, the Central Florida GreeneWay, and even the smallest segment of the Holland East-West Expressway that connects with Florida’s Turnpike. Thus, the compatibility issues, because Florida has yet to reach an operating agreement with the E-ZPass Group, the governing body for the nation’s largest electronic toll collection network.
Florida had been on the cusp of such an agreement, in part, in early 2017, said Chad Huff, spokesman for Florida’s DOT. The state was on track to begin accepting the I-Pass transponder, used in Illinois but a part of the E-ZPass network. It would have been a first step toward Florida accepting all E-ZPass transponders. However, a series of unspecified issues has delayed implementation for more than 18 months, so far.
Essentially, that means visitors to Florida who are using an E-ZPass will only be able to drive portions of Orlando’s toll roads using their transponders. Main roads, like Florida’s Turnpike, itself, will not be compatible with E-ZPass at all. For roads where E-ZPass is accepted, if a driver passes the wrong mile marker, they will incur a toll violation, unless they have the cash to pay for the toll. The only other option is to buy a SunPass, which is Florida’s toll transponder, but using both transponders, together, can often lead to duplicate charges, as the CFX roads also accept SunPass.
E-Pass Not Compatible With E-ZPass
Another issue, particularly for local drivers in the Orlando area, is that the CFX toll transponder, E-Pass, will not work on E-ZPass roads, even though the E-ZPass will work on some roads in Florida. Again, Hutchings said it is an administrative issue, not a technological one, that has created the snags, a sentiment shared by Florida’s DOT, Huff told TurnpikeInfo.com.
Florida’s DOT, Huff said, had the technology to read E-ZPass transponders and their data in place in 2017. The problem is in reaching the interoperability agreements with the various agencies of the E-ZPass network.
“Developing compatible business rules across agencies takes significant amounts of time,” Huff wrote in an email to TurnpikeInfo.com. “SunPass and the other Florida brands use the same technology and worked out business rules as electronic tolling was being introduced.”
As of this writing, Florida DOT did not have an update of when E-ZPass may be accepted on other Florida toll roads, outside the Orlando metropolitan area.