tampabay.com

SunPass stickers to get ride

They won't just be smaller than the transponders being used now; the toll tag will be cheaper, too.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
Published May 4, 2007


Florida drivers may soon have a cheaper and smaller alternative to the $25 SunPass transponders allowing them to zip through state toll booths.

The state's toll-road authority, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, confirmed Thursday that it is testing a windshield sticker with a computer chip that will function the same way as the bigger transponders.

The decal will be the size of a credit card - while the current transponder is wallet-sized - and turnpike officials said it will cost drivers less than $10 to buy. The director of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority said his staff told him it will cost about $5.

If testing is completed satisfactorily, officials say, the stickers may become available sometime next year.

Joanne Hurley, a spokeswoman for Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, said that the agency has conducted several focus groups and that feedback has indicated drivers want a cheaper SunPass option.

"This might be for people who aren't regular commuters, maybe occasional visitors to the area," Hurley said.

Several other states are already using similar stickers, including Georgia, Texas and Washington.

Hurley said the sticker wouldn't replace the transponder. Some drivers might want to keep the larger device. For one thing, the stickers aren't transferable between vehicles.

And unlike their larger cousin, the decals won't beep when funds in a driver's toll account run low.

One of the new places drivers will be able to use their SunPass - transponder or decal - is Tampa International Airport. In January, drivers can pay for parking at the economy garage with SunPass. By September 2008, long- and short-term parking will accept it, too.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3436.