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End Of The Road For Old SunPass Transponders

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) -- Time is running out for the nearly 100,000 SunPass customers with older devices to convert to new, free transponders.

Older, battery-operated transponders used for Florida toll roads and some bridges become obsolete in 2016.

"It is important that anybody with that type of unit contact us now so that their service continues uninterrupted," Chad Huff, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Turnpike, said in an email.

Huff said motorists whose transponders expire Jan.1 without being replaced will be handled on a case-by-case basis by SunPass customer-service representatives.

The state continues to reach out to 100,000 customers via email and traditional mail about the need to make the change, Huff said.

The state has been working since 2013 on its "tagswap" program to get the approximately 1.7 million customers that had been using battery-operated transponders --- first introduced in 1999 --- to newer devices as a way to streamline toll technology while expanding use to other states.

"The goal of tagswap is to provide the greatest opportunity for SunPass customers to eventually move seamlessly from state to state," Huff said.

Florida has already linked its toll collection system with Georgia and North Carolina and is working on other reciprocal deals to meet the requirements of a 2012 federal law known as the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act."

The act requires all states with toll agencies to set up "interoperability" deals by October 2016.

The "tagswap" program allows customers to choose from two types of transponders. There is no cost for customers swapping out older transponders, with the program funded at about $9 million a year through toll revenues.

One of the types of new transponders, known as the mini, is affixed to windshields and costs $4.99 for customers buying their first SunPasses. The other type, known as the portable, includes suction cups so it can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle similar to the older transponder, and costs $19.99 for new customers. Both require a $10 minimum initial balance to activate.

(The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.)

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