Florida’s search for new vendor to run SunPass tolling system hits reset button

Sunpass holders go through an express lane at the entrance of Sanibel Island in Lee County, Florida, United States on January 15, 2018. Courtesy: Shutterstock – Photo by EQRoy

Early in 2020, Florida’s transportation secretary affirmed the state’s intention not to renew the contract of the vendor in charge of the 2018 Florida SunPass tolling calamity. 

What was supposed to be a six-day restructuring of the SunPass tolling system turned into over a month-long toll processing disaster. Contractor failures during the rebuild in 2018 caused widespread SunPass failures across the state and ultimately created a backlog of delayed tolls for millions of Floridians. Florida was tasked with solving a double-billing issue that riddled the new tolling system with over 100 million transactions in delayed tolls for more than a month.

After the tolling fiasco, it seemed inevitable that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) would stick to its guns and look elsewhere for a new vendor once their contract was up—until recently.

In November, FDOT came up with a final list of potential vendors to take over Conduent State and Local Solutions’ tolling seat, and surprise, surprise, they weren’t on it. However, just a few weeks ago, the state agency rejected all bidders for the job and instead will restart their process yet again, giving the New Jersey-based business an opportunity to retain its seven-year, seven-figure contract to process the state’s customer service— and tolling…

Conduent placed a bid to continue serving as Florida’s SunPass processing company despite FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault’s good word against them. The finalist selection process was scheduled to happen in January 2021, but now that the bids were rejected, six months of work was thrown out the window.

While the 2018 disaster falls largely on the shoulders of Conduent, it must be noted that the state never adequately tested the company’s adjusted system before launching. According to the Miami Herald, the state’s technology agency dropped its auditing and oversight duties a year before Conduent’s system went live.

Conduent began processing tolls on June 11, 2018, and what ensued after was an estimated $50 million in toll revenue losses from the state in paying back bank overdraft fees. The company struggled to regain its footing over the next six-months and failed to properly bill SunPass users—at times over billing them by hundreds of dollars. Conduent was held responsible for the faulty system and was penalized millions of dollars.

And while the situation has since been fixed, the search begins yet again in 2021 for a potential new SunPass vendor.

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