The final push on a four-year plan to rid the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority’s roads of toll booths gets under way next week, when the county’s two main east-west highways engage in rolling shutdowns while electronic tolling equipment is installed.
For four nights in a row, segments of State Roads 836 and 112 will close from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.:
Closing a freeway for 8 1/2 hours to install a single piece of equipment — the horizontal gantry on which the toll scanner is mounted — might seem like a lot. But MDX officials say it’s actually a huge improvement over what happened in earlier years when the Don Shula, Snapper Creek and Gratigny expressways were converted to open road tolling.
“In previous conversions, we had to shut down freeways for an entire weekend, from Friday night to early Monday morning,” MDX spokesman Mario Diaz said. “But we learned a lot during those, and we can do it a lot faster. A one-night closure isn’t so bad.”
Toll booths are already long gone from both 836 and 112. But the new overhead scanners will establish new tolling points that close off loopholes in the system that some vehicles traveling between certain freeway exits take to escape tolls.
“When the new equipment is activated, which won’t happen until the end of the year, some drivers will pay more, some less, some the same — and some who haven’t been paying at all will have to start,” Diaz said.
Tolls will be collected automatically from SunPass transponders or billed by license plate. To lessen the sting, MDX is offering the mini-sticker version of SunPass (retail price: $4.95) free to anybody who comes into the agency headquarters at 3790 NW 21st St. to open a SunPass account.
The free transponders are available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from July 29 to the end of August.