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Sun Pass Coming To Pensacola Beach


Soon you make not have to go searching for a dollar bill to get to Pensacola Beach: beginning May 31st, the Bob Sykes Bridge, connecting Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach, will begin accepting Sun Pass for the one dollar toll.

David Forte is the Division Manager for Transportation and Traffic Operations at the Escambia County Department of Public Works. He says the project has been in the works for a while. "Back in about 2014, the U.S. government had a mandate that all toll plazas throughout the country needed to be inter operable by October of 2016. That, coupled with the fact that our system was an antiquated system, we couldn't find (replacement parts), we were having issues keeping the system up to date and live and working well and (efficiently). So the county began a search and put out a request for quotation to find an inter operable system. They decided on the Florida Department of Transportation's Sun Pass system.

Sun Pass uses an electronic tag the attaches to the inside of a car’s windshield. When a car goes through a Sun Pass toll booth, the system automatically deducts the toll from the tag holder’s account. This means no more looking for a dollar bill when you cross over the Pensacola Beach. Unless you really want to. "You can still pay a dollar in cash. The only difference will be lane one, which is the typical 'annual pass lane' ...will be converted to a dedicated Sun Pass and/or annual pass lane. So we will no longer be staffing that lane with a collector."

You will also be able to use Sun Pass in the other lanes at the toll booth. The conversion will also mean a change for people who buy the 50 dollar annual passes to the bridge. Those are still available, but you will also have to have a Sun Pass account. The old black box transponders are being retired. Forte says the county has held a few sign-up sessions to help people with the transition and has another one planned for early June.

Some other things to know. Even though you can have several cars on a Sun Pass account, you still must purchase a separate annual pass for each vehicle on your account. Another change is that the annual passes are now true 365 day passes. Formerly, if you bought your pass in January or May, or even November, it expired on December 31st. Now it will expire one year from the day you buy it.  Forte says once the system is up and running for a while, he hopes it might cut down on travel time to the beach. "I don't necessarily believe that the toll plaza is the only issue [with traffic] that we have on the island, there are several things that are probably causing some of the congestion issues that we have. But it surely will help."

There is one more change you may already have noticed at the toll booth at the Bob Sykes Bridge. The gates that used to block passage through the booth until the toll was paid have been retired. David Forte says some people have asked about them hoping to have them for keepsakes. 

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.