Put your cash away. You won’t need it, and you won’t find anyone to give it to. Open road tolling is now the rule everywhere on the 47-mile Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike in Miami-Dade County.
Four “barrier” plazas and 33 ramp toll plazas on the Turnpike Extension were converted to open road tolling. Collection of cash tolls stopped on February 19, 2011.
In addition to the turnpike extension, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has instituted open road tolling on three expressways in the Miami area: the Gratigny Parkway (State Road 924), the Don Shula Expressway (State Road 874), and the Snapper Creek Expressway (State Road 878).
When you use the turnpike extension or the three Miami-Dade expressways, you pass beneath gantries with electronic equipment that automatically records your presence. If you have a SunPass, the equipment automatically deducts the toll from your account and gives you a 25 percent discount at most locations.
If you don’t have a SunPass, cameras attached to the gantry will photograph your car’s license tag and send a bill to the car’s registered owner. In additional to the full, non-discounted toll, the bill will include an administrative processing fee of $2.50 per month.
To avoid the processing fee, you can set up a pre-paid toll-by-plate account, but such an account doesn’t qualify for the toll discounts.
Visitors and rental cars
When you drive your own car with out-of-state plates into Florida, SunPass may be your best deal – especially if you’re taking the turnpike all the way down the state into south Florida. The mini version costs just $4.99 (versus $25 for the portable version). You can buy it online before you travel.
The mini SunPass comes with a $4.99 rebate in toll credits, so it doesn’t cost you anything extra. You must attach it to the glass windshield of your car. If you take it off, it stops working. You can tuck away the $25 portable version when you’re not using it, and you can transfer it from one car to another. For frequent Florida visitors, the portable SunPass may provide long-run savings.
If you’re driving a rental car in Florida, ask your rental company in advance what (if any) arrangement it has with the state for turnpike tolls. “Some companies charge a daily or weekly fee, plus the toll incurred. Others provide unlimited toll usage for a set per day or per week amount,” the turnpike’s Web site says.
Some companies have no arrangement with the state. When they get a bill, they’ll pay it and pass along the tolls to you with a hefty add-on processing fee. That’s why you should clarify your rental company’s policy before you drive their car off the company lot.
Even if you’re renting a car from a company that offers an open road tolling plan, you may still be better off using your own SunPass – whether mini or portable. Plan your route, do the math, and see which approach costs least.
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