After spending more than one year attempting to clean up the mess that came with updating the SunPass collection system, it appears that the Florida Turnpike Enterprise is looking to replace its back-office vendor. Florida’s Department of Transportation announced they’re seeking a “request for information,” essentially the first step in securing a new contract.
Nicola Liquori, the executive director of the Turnpike Enterprise, recently told lawmakers that losses in toll collections could possibly exceed the $50 million mark. The pending toll collections at risk stem from when the upgrade project was initially launched by a company that remains in business with the Florida Turnpike. “We realize we tripped a little bit, but we’re moving forward and we’re looking at ways to enhance our customer-facing tools to make that a better product for them,” Liquori mentioned to members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee.
The Florida Turnpike Enterprise is seeking vendors with ample experience in account management systems and processing complex transactions. “The turnpike is looking for recommendations on innovative, field-proven concepts and approaches, which currently may be in use within other industries,” said the Department of Transportation in a press release. Florida has already penalized Conduent State & Local Solution to the tune of $10 million over the botched upgrade project of 2018. Lasting months longer than anticipated — and ongoing, the upgrade project will continue to face penalties.
In July of 2019, the Department of Transportation Secretary announced that Conduent’s existing Sunpass contract worth $343 million would not be renewed when it’s up in three years. As of now, the toll-by-plate system (used to bill motorists that do not have a SunPass) has a backlog of $120 million. Liquori estimates that nearly 50 or 60 percent of the backlog may not be recovered, even when counting on the help of collection agencies.
The upgrade project was expected to last just one week in June of 2018, but it dragged on so long that the state of Florida was forced to waive late fees and penalties. It took over six months for the first invoices to be mailed to customers who had unpaid tolls. Wary after the nightmare scenario, Florida lawmakers are demanding new safeguards to be in place when the contract is eventually replaced.
The Florida Turnpike processes between 4 million and 5 million toll transactions per diem. A new back-office system is designed to manage 9 million SunPass accounts, and over 12 million “toll-by-plate” accounts.
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