A year ago, Mike Bauman, who heads Miami-Dade County’s Causeway Division, said the Venetian Causeway toll collection would be converted to SunPass by fall of 2012.
This week, Belle Isle residents will learn why that hasn’t happened — along with a new goal of making the switch by the end of 2013.
Bauman, whose responsibilities include overseeing the Venetian and Rickenbacker causeways, said In January 2012 that he expected the Rickenbacker to convert to SunPass by June or July 2012, and that the Venetian would convert in the fall.
But he tells El Nuevo Herald’s Alfonso Chardy that contractor issues and efforts by Florida’s toll agencies to centralize back office billing operations caused the delays.
There are other details to be worked out. The county has said it wants to convert the Rickenbacker to an all-electronic toll system; on the Venetian, island residents have been told a cash lane will remain even after the switch to SunPass.
When the Venetian opened, tolls cost a dime.
Island residents will still be able to buy an annual $24 pass to use the causeway (it will be part of the SunPass programming), and commuters can pay $90 for annual use. But there is concern on the Venetian Islands that allowing everyone to pass through the toll with an electronic device would lead to more speeding on the residential causeway.
Bicycle activists also oppose removing the toll booths, which they said help hold down speeds on the causeways.
At a Venetian Islands Homeowner Association meeting last month, VIHA president Juergen Brendel asked Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora if tolls for non-residents should be raised to $3 to discourage traffic. Gongora said that was a Miami-Dade County decision. The current cash toll is $1.50.
It’s a long way from the days when the causeway opened, and the privately-owned bridge actually advertised to attract drivers to pay the toll for a shorter crossing to Miami Beach.
The SunPass issue is among the items to be discussed at Wednesday’s Belle Isle Residents Association meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. (Jan. 16) at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.