The SunPass transponder system is now processing a backlog of tolls leaving some customers facing heavy charges.
Whitney Cooley and her husband use the Mid-Bay Bridge daily. Whitney estimates they usually spend about $14 to $16 a day in tolls, but lately she’s been getting charged up to $50 a day for the past two weeks.
“I started seeing $50 every single day for two weeks, that’s almost $600-$700 that came out,” Cooley said. “That’s a lot at one time on top of what I’m being charged currently.”
Cooley said other people with higher limits on their accounts are getting charged more. Like her dad, who had to cancel his card that was linked to SunPass because he was being charged $200 a day in toll fees.
Due to a botched system upgrade to SunPass in June, toll transactions were recorded but the system was never brought back online and the transactions were never posted to user accounts.
The Florida Department of Transportation acknowledge the backlog in July and suspended fees and penalties while the vendor, a Maryland-based company called Conduent State & Local Solutions, worked to get the backlogged transactions posted to accounts.
In a news release on June 21, FDOT stated “once the system has been thoroughly tested, FTE (Florida Toll Enterprise) will announce a timeline for the resumption of fees or penalties for delinquent accounts.”
But Cooley said she never received a notification as to when they would be starting to collect the fees.
“No one got notified,” she said. “You noticed when you saw ‘Holy moly, I just got $600 taken out in the past two weeks.”
She said she tried contacting FDOT and went to their office, only to be handed a letter stating that “Customers should continue to see transactions posting to their accounts over the next several weeks, so that charges do not occur all at once.”
Cooley’s SunPass account is being charged multiple times a day to equal up to $50. She said that she had multiple charges from SunPass on Monday, but she was off work and didn’t even go over the bridge that day.
“Eventually, I’m gonna have to start transferring from savings because it’s money I wasn’t expecting,” she said. “It’s a lot at one time.”
She has no problem paying the toll fees she accrued, but she’s bothered that they weren’t given a statement of the charges and options for paying them.
“They should have said ‘We just realized June and July weren't being charged, these are the tolls you used for those months, this is the amount that's owed for your Sunpass, these are our payment plan options,” said Cooley. “The way they’ve handled this situation is just wrong to me.”
Cooley isn’t the only one upset about the recent charges. Other SunPass users have started petitions on sites like Change.org calling for SunPass to waive the accrued fees and hold Conduent responsible. One petition had 8,817 votes and counting as of Friday morning.
In an update on Aug. 9, FDOT said “more than 281 million transactions have been posted, which represents a reduction of approximately 90 percent of the total backlogged transactions, which now stands at less than 32 million transactions.”
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan have requested the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Conduent State & Local Solutions, accusing the company of mismanagement.
FDOT officials did not respond to questions about the backlog by the deadline for this article.