TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- New documents obtained by 10Investigates reveal FDOT's internal plan to clear its massive backlog of SunPass toll transactions won't have customers' accounts up-to-date until sometime in September, which would take the now-62-day disruption past the 100-day mark.
The discovery, only turned over to 10Investigates this week in response to a mid-June public records request, was contained in an internal email between high-level FDOT executives and consultants tasked with fixing a botched systems upgrade that was originally supposed to be completed between June 6 and 11.
FDOT officials have failed to answer many of 10Investigates' questions over the past two months, instead choosing to communicate largely through optimistic press releases. A spokesperson repeatedly said the agency did not know when it might clear its backlog of tolls, which at one point approached 200 million.
The records also indicated why FDOT may not be processing its backlog faster. Executives expressed concern about unexpected charges hitting customers' accounts all at once, which could create overdraft fees for some customers.
FDOT reports reducing its backlog by more than 50 million tolls in the last 10 days, but an estimated 139 million tolls -- more than a month's worth -- remain in the backlog, creating headaches for consumers who need updated accounts to file expense reports, need to budget their finances, and who are unable to verify the accuracy of month-old charges.
Legislators frustrated too
It's not just Florida reporters and drivers unable to get answers from FDOT; several lawmakers have vented to 10Investigates about their inability to get updates on SunPass problems.
Among them: State Rep. Kristin Jacobs (D-Coconut Creek), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, who sent a letter to FDOT Secretary Mike Dew on Wednesday, her third in the last two weeks.
Jacobs has been looking for answers to a series of questions, including how FDOT decided to go with a contractor with such a spotty history and why they haven't been more transparent. She said she got a call from Dew's chief of staff and a promise of a response, but said in her letter, "none of these promises have been honored."
"Over two weeks have passed and still no response. Not even an attempt to offer some insight or response to answers that should be readily available by the department or an offering of a timeline so that I could expect when to receive answers."
Jacobs says she is now demanding answers, on behalf of both her constituents and the more than 6 million Florida drivers who own a SunPass transponder.
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