For decades, Florida has been a vacation mecca. It’s known for its beautiful beaches on either coast, on top of popular theme parks in the center of the state. Florida is also dotted with exciting large cities, plus the beautiful nature of the Everglades and the laid back attitude of the Keys. No wonder why 36 million visitors traveled to Florida in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Whether they use rental cars or their own vehicles, many of the state’s travelers drive while they visit. Since many of Florida’s major highways are tolled, this usually means having to pay for toll roads while driving around the Sunshine State.
Over the years, several options for paying Florida’s tolls have been introduced:
- Visitors with an E-Z Pass can use their E-Z Pass throughout the state
- Those who fly to/from MCO could potentially use a Visitor Toll Pass
- Rental car companies each have their own (usually) optional system for toll payment
- There are even toll apps out there that may or may not work in the state (and may or may not be “worth it,” but hey, they’re out there)
But for some people, the easiest way to pay for tolls is the “old fashioned way” – cash. Unfortunately, with so many electronic options, many highways in the state have gone cash free. The one holdout has been in the Central Florida area. Human toll takers and/or exact change lanes have remained at some tolls, thanks to so many tourists who would rather pay cash than get a transponder.
I hate to say it, but that’s soon going to be changing.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) has plans to remove all 96 automated (read: exact change) toll machines throughout its 125-mile system. Those roads include:
- State Road 408 (East-West Expressway)
- State Road 414 (Apopka Expressway)
- State Road 417 (Central Florida GreeneWay)
- State Road 429 (Western Beltway)
- State Road 451
- State Road 528 (Beachline Expressway)
- State Road 453
- State Road 538 (Poinciana Parkway)
Of those, the 417 and 528 are the roads that connect Orlando International Airport to the theme park corridor, and the 429 runs N/S, just west of Disney, and to I-4. The other roads don’t affect most tourists as much, but could, depending on where they’re traveling to/from.
As per the Sentinel, CFX says the coin machines are “end of life and unsupported by manufacturer,” and they have a “high maintenance requirement.” The agency is also beginning to become low on critical parts to repair the exact change toll machines. They are, essentially, dinosaurs.
The phasing out will begin in 2023 when CFX will remove 26 coin machines from the main toll plazas. They’ll continue the work in 2024, eliminating 70 from ramps accessing expressways.
The toll authorities of Miami and Tampa Bay have already removed their exact change tolls. The Poinciana Parkway in Osceola County, and the Wekiva Parkway in Orange and Lake counties are newer roads and were not built with any lanes for cash tolls.
Feature Photo: formulaone / flickr / CC by SA 2.0
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Cash and coins were suspended via human attendants during the pandemic but the writing on the wall for the entire option of paying on the spot was written years earlier. The maintenance costs truly were horrible. While I never had problems paying with coins, a friend commuted via SR520 from East Orlando (Christmas, to be specific) to the coast. His 25¢ each direction ROUTINELY was ignored by the basket, the point that he began to carry a ball-peen hammer to provide a gentle message to the metal base of the basket in order that his payment register. This began in 2010! True story!