|Published:||May 15, 2013 4:43 PM EDT|
|Updated:||May 15, 2013 6:52 PM EDT|
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - What if you could use your LeeWay or SunPass to pay tolls in other states. And what if other visitors could use their passes here?
WINK News has learned Florida officials are already putting it in motion, and we could see changes possibly in the next couple of years.
It's called interoperability: a system that works nationwide to accept one toll pass. Some say it will boost tourism. But one Cape councilman wonders if it's money well spent.
Lee County has budgeted $700,000 over the next two years to upgrade its toll software to one day accept not only Leeway and SunPass transponders, but another pass used in the northeast called an E-ZPass.
Lee County residents are on board. "It would make it easier especially on all the tourists that come down during season," said Andy Weidensee.
"Being able to use it in all the states that would be great," said Betty Rogers.
Toll facilities operations manager Susan Hopwood says this national interoperability should work both ways. "Technically, your LeeWay transponder or your SunPass transponder would work when you go to New Jersey or New York, that's the intent. I don't think it's going to happen in 18 months but that is the direction we are heading," Hopwood said.
But Cape Coral councilman Kevin McGrail is skeptical. "If we really look at this critically, that's a lot of taxpayer money to spend for very little benefit," he said.
He says Cape Coral isn't as big of a tourist hub compared to other cities across Florida. "I see this right now as an unfunded mandate from the federal government," he said.
He thinks money spent for national interoperability should be spent somewhere else, like replacing bridges in the future.
The county has also budgeted almost 9 million dollars for a toll system replacement starting in 2017, which will span the next few years. It will re-do software and replace the violation enforcement system.
In 2012, drivers paid almost $25 million in bridge tolls.