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Sunpass to replace LeeWay? What the switch could mean to you

Julian Glover

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Sunpass to replace LeeWay? What the switch could mean to you

CREATED Oct. 16, 2013

LEE CO, Fla. - How you go about paying tolls and how much you pay for them could change soon in Southwest Florida.

Last month, the LeeCcounty Board of Commissioners received a memo from the Florida Department of Transportation asking the board to further consider joining the "new centralized customer service system" for toll payment.

The plan would effectively merge LeeWay as well as other toll agencies around the state with Sunpass.

On Tuesday, LeeWay officials asked commissioners for more time deciding whether or not to join the program, commissioners agreed.

"We have to have a study of the driving tendencies of the motorist number one, what their economic situation may be,” said Lee County Commissioner John Manning, District 1.

LeeWay is currently looking for a contractor to conduct an economic impact study to weigh a few potential plans to merge LeeWay with Sunpass and how each plan could affect the driver.

LeeWay is considering “keeping the discount program, eliminating them all together and doing some sort of hybrid,” said Susan Hopwood, LeeWay toll facilities operations manager.

LeeWay offers significant discount programs for those that frequently use one of the three major bridges in Southwest Florida.

Sunpass currently does not offer any similar discount plan.

While any plan other than keeping the current discounts in place would affect all drivers, one group is most at risk.

“As far as who would be impacted the hardest, I would think it would be unlimited customers,” said Hopwood.

Unlimited customers like those traveling back and forth on Sanibel could get hit the hardest without the inclusion of a discount program.

“If Sunpass doesn't honor that same agreement that Lee County has, [it could] more or less be like tripling or quadrupling our cost of living out on the island,” said Mark Lehr.

Lehr lives on Sanibel Island but works in Fort Myers. He purchases LeeWay’s Sanibel toll discount program, and for $67 a year he cuts his Sanibel toll prices from $6 per trip to $2.

LeeWay managers tell Fox 4 that they are looking at every angle and working to insure that the consumers’ best interest is protected.

“We need to be conscious and sensitive to their needs before we make steps to join the [uniformed program],” said Hopwood.

LeeWay's economic impact study is slated to be completed by fall of 2014, but the switch if it does happen won't take place until sometime mid 2015.