ORLANDO, Fla. – During the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee meeting Wednesday, the newly appointed Florida Turnpike Enterprise executive director, Nicola Liquori, addressed the committee and announced there is more than $120 million in unpaid tolls that SunPass is still trying to collect that are more than 90 days old.
She also announced that they are starting the process to find a new state vendor, with a request for information going out this Friday, putting vendors on notice about potential timelines, and allowing them to provide feedback on the project.
She says she will personally oversee the process.
"I will be personally accountable for overseeing the selection process," said Liquori. "I will be personally accountable for ensuring the proper controls are in place for the procurement process, for the testing that is undertaken before Go Live for establishing and adhering to the Go Live criteria for this new back office system."
She told the committee the agency is looking for ways to reduce or eliminate cutover risk during the system changeover to try to make it as seamless as possible, including running in parallel before doing a final cutover.
She also says they may look at doing a combination of breaking up the pieces of the project, and using off the-shelf products for the back office system for things like the interactive phone system and computer system. The computer system would be used for things that are not toll centric. The plan is to explore separating those contracts out. Plans were also announced to redesign the SunPass website.
Liquori says cash toll transactions make up 7% of the transactions they process, SunPass transponders make up 82% of the transactions and toll by plate make up the remaining 11%.
She says the toll by plate system is where they have a little work to do.
She says the backlog was partly due to the vendor backlog, and partly a self-imposed agency delay to review invoices. She says they waived penalties and fees for transactions between June 2018 and May 2019.
She says they typically offer two chances to customers to receive their invoices and pay for them. In this case, the agency gave them three invoices before it started collecting on past-due tolls. She says they even offered TBP customers free transponders to join SunPass at a 25% discount on their TBP bill. She says that measure converted about 129,000 customers, a way of building a rapport to make up for the delay in billing.
She says now they plan on sending the past-due bills to a collection agency, but says the collection agencies will not be allowed to assess fees and penalties, just collect on the toll amount owed.
She says in June, they started normal billing.
Liquori says as for the current contract with Conduent, they can and have adjusted the invoices submitted downward.
Liquori says despite the disruption, there were no impacts to the state transportation trust fund and no impacts to the projects funded with toll revenues.
"Zero projects were moved, deferred, or otherwise affected," Liquori said.
She also says there was no impact to the creditworthiness in the municipal bond market.
"We continue to retain our AA rating. We have met all debt service payments, and our debt coverage levels are very strong," Liquori said. "For Fiscal Year 2019, revenues collected for the year exceeded a billion dollars. So, our financial picture is very strong."
Liquori says customer service issues have improved, SunPass call wait times have been reduced and the average response time now is 11 seconds. She says customer satisfaction scores have increased to 4.6 out of a 5-point scale.
Liquoiri used to be in charge of SunRail and a past chief financial officer at Florida Turnpike Enterprise.