Miami-Dade Expressway to start billing for tardy tolls

The Miami Herald

Some drivers who use Miami-Dade Expressway Authority toll roads without SunPass may be in for a surprise in April when they begin receiving their first bills in six months.That’s because in October the Expressway Authority (MDX) stopped sending monthly bills to drivers who pay tolls using the system known as Toll-by-Plate. In that system, a camera photographs the license plate of a vehicle when it crosses an electronic collection point. A bill of all Toll-by-Plate charges is then sent every 30 days to the registered owner of the vehicle.

The agency stopped sending monthly bills after it terminated the contract of the vendor assigned to send the bills. MDX has since found a new vendor and the first bills under the new system will begin going out April 15, said MDX spokesman Mario Diaz.

It’s possible that some drivers may be surprised when they receive their bills if they have used the highways extensively during the last six months. But Diaz said that only about 10 percent of the estimated 1 million daily MDX highway users pay tolls via Toll-by-Plate. Moreover, most of those drivers are infrequent users of MDX roads, Diaz added. The majority of drivers have SunPass in their vehicles and thus pay tolls using a credit or debit card.

The billing delay was first reported by NBC6.

Diaz said the agency does not yet know the precise amount of delayed transactions, or how much each driver owes, because the tallying is just beginning.

On MDX expressways, Toll-by-Plate rates are double the SunPass rate. For example, people who pay tolls with SunPass pay only 50 cents at a typical electronic collection point like the one at the junction of the Palmetto Expressway and State Road 874, the Don Shula Expressway. The Toll-by-Plate rate there is $1.

Diaz said that once a full analysis of the transactions is done, MDX officials will decide how to bill Toll-by-Plate customers.

“One thing we will not do is bill them the whole amount all at once and demand that they pay immediately,” said Diaz. “We are looking at several options.”

Among the options MDX is considering is including in the first bill toll transactions for October, November and December or perhaps just for October and November. Subsequent bills would be broken into two- or three-month increments.

Diaz also said that MDX will be willing to work out a payment plan with any customer who cannot make large payments.

Diaz acknowledged that MDX did not warn Toll-by-Plate customers that they would not be receiving bills for a period of time because of the change in vendors.

But Diaz said the agency did not want to create “confusion” among customers who would not be able to pay their monthly bill anyway because of the absence of a vendor.

Diaz said some Toll-by-Plate customers called the agency to complain about not receiving bills regularly. Many of these customers were convinced to switch from Toll-by-Plate to SunPass, said Diaz.

MDX operates five toll roads in Miami-Dade County: Gratigny Parkway and State Roads 836, 874, 878 and 112.