70 miles of Florida's Turnpike going cashless in $17.9 million project

A sign along a Florida toll road alerts driver's that no cash is accepted along the road.

ORLANDO — Drivers who prefer to toss coins into a basket at toll booths in Central Florida will soon have to deal with fewer places where cash is accepted.

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Florida's Turnpike enterprise is in the middle of a more than $17.9 million project to make 70 miles of its toll systems cashless.

Officials said by summer 2020, the Leesburg toll plaza and 23 on- and off-ramp plazas will no longer accept cash.

Driver should not get too excited about the Leesburg plaza coming down and having fewer tolls to pay, because workers are building a new overhead electronic toll collection system a couple hundred feet from the existing plaza.

The new system will be fully functional and collect tolls before demolition on the plaza can begin.

Similar conversions in other parts of the state have not only kept traffic moving, it has reduced crashes.

"In Broward County, for example, there was a 72% reduction in crashes. A lot of crashes happened as those lanes are merging back to together," Florida’s Turnpike representative Katie Mitzner said.

With change, comes job loss. But Mitzner said they have a system in place that will help toll employees build their resume and look for other jobs.

Going cashless accommodates drivers who already use the system. Officials said 85% of drivers who travel the toll road either have a transponder or have a toll-by-plate bill sent to them later in the mail.

The conversion also forces the other 15% of cash drivers into a cashless system they might not trust.

"The cash gives me freedom. It gives me freedom not to track, not to keep track of and not to have money sitting in an account somewhere where I may forget how much is there," Winter Garden resident Sharon said. "That is an extra step and a huge inconvenience. Cash is convenient. It's so easy to get quarters."

Mitzner said drivers can still use cash to replenish a Sunpass account or opt to have a toll-by-plate bill sent in the mail. Monthly bills in the mail will cost drivers more because they'll pay a higher cash rate for tolls they use, plus a $2.50 service charge.

Florida's Turnpike also owns portions of State Road 417 in Seminole County, the southern sections of State Road 429 and parts of the Beachline closer to Brevard County.

The potential for cashless conversations on those state-owned systems is being studied.

Although, not all toll roads are converting.

Florida's Turnpike is one of Central Florida's toll authorities. The Central Florida Expressway Authority owns and operates the E-pass system, which includes parts of SR-417 in Orange County, SR-429 through Winter Garden, Toll Road 408 and parts of the Beachline near Orlando International Airport.

A Central Florida Expressway Authority representative said they have no plans to covert over to a cashless system, even though most of their customers rely on electronic tolling.