Florida is taking the first step toward making SunPass and E-ZPass, the dominant toll collection in the Northeast and Midwest, talk to each other.
Starting in July, drivers in Florida and North Carolina who pay tolls electronically can use their transponders in either state, officials announced Wednesday. North Carolina uses Quick Pass, which serves about 50,000 drivers. Florida's SunPass has sold 7.7 million transponders.
Both states will spend the next six months testing each other's technology and billing systems before the July 1 start date. Some time after that, SunPass and Georgia's Peach Pass, which works on toll roads in Atlanta, will become compatible.
Officials hope these deals will lead to agreements with states that use the much bigger E-Zpass, which has nearly 23 million transponders in circulation.
The major sticking point over the years has been different technology that makes the transponders incompatible. The other issues are billing, reimbursement between states, and how to deal with drivers who try to cheat the system.
North Carolina's system is viewed as a "bridge" between SunPass and E-ZPass because it is capable of working with both.
A recent federal transportation bill mandated "national interoperability" within four years. Diane Gutierrrez-Scaccetti, executive director of Florida's Turnpike, said getting those agreements are among her top priorities in the next year.
Gutierrrez-Scaccetti, who is from New Jersey, said she has a SunPass sticker tag on one side of her car and an E-ZPass transponder on the other.
"I would love to be able to have just one transponder to pay tolls," she said.
E-Z Pass is currently used in Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.
For years, E-Z Pass drivers have complained they can't use their transponders to pay for tolls on Florida's toll roads. SunPass customers have had the same gripes about toll roads up north.
North Carolina's toll roads currently are limited to the Raleigh area, but the state is studying tolling the entire length of Interstate 95 within its borders.
Turnpike spokeswoman Kim Poulton said Georgia and North Carolina are among the top origins of drivers visiting Florida and vice versa.
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