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SunPass Requires Switch to Newer Transponders by New Year's

The SunPass Slim Portable is about half the size of the older model and doesn't require any batteries to work. Photo courtesy of Lauren Brooks.

The clock is ticking for motorists who still have their old battery-powered SunPass.

Starting on Jan. 1, those older models will no longer work. Anyone wanting to take advantage of SunPass’s Tag Swap Program, which allows people to trade in their older model for a new one free of charge, has until Dec. 31 to do so.

“The change in technology is necessary as Florida continues its efforts toward regional and national toll interoperability,” said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, executive director of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, in a statement.

Motorists whose transponders expire Jan.1 without being replaced will be handled on a case-by-case basis by SunPass customer-service representatives, according to statements by Chad Huff, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Turnpike.

Motorists without a SunPass will automatically be placed in the TOLL-BY-PLATE program,  in which a toll camera takes a picture of the car's license plate and a corresponding bill is sent through the mail. Costumers in TOLL-BY-PLATE will be charged a higher toll rate and will be subject to an additional monthly administrative fee to cover the cost of mailing and processing the toll, according to the website.

For those making the switch, there are two transponder models available, which were introduced in 2012. One model, the SunPass Slim Portable is held in place by suction cups, while the SunPass Mini Sticker must be adhered to the inside of the windshield. Neither model beeps or requires batteries.

More than 1.5 million customers already made the switch, but an estimated 100,000 are left to convert, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

Soon there will be fewer options for drivers who prefer the tollbooths, as the state is spending an estimated $10.3 million to convert all mainline toll plazas and ramp tollbooths on the Suncoast Parkway to the electronic format, according to Christa Deason, a Florida Turnpike spokesperson.

In 2017, work is set to begin on the toll plazas from North of Van Dyke Road in Pasco County to U.S. 98 in Hernando County. The 13-mile Parkway extension to State Road 44 in Citrus County will also be electronic only, said Deason.

Citrus County resident Lauren Brooks, 43, traded in her SunPass last month. While she said she likes how the newer model is small and doesn’t require batteries, she doesn’t like that it doesn’t beep.

“I took so long to switch because the older model made me feel a bit more comfortable,” she said. “I knew for sure when the machine scanned it.”

News Service Florida contributed to this story. 

Mauhe is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.