"We're making electronic tolling much more convenient for cash-based customers," says Richard Nelson, director of toll operations for the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, of a system similar to recharging a prepaid phone card. Image: Blackstone Calling Card Inc.

About one-quarter of U.S. residents don't pay bills with a credit card or checking account. So, the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), which will fully automate some toll plazas by February 2011, is rolling out ways for the 30% of residents who don't have an electronic-payment account to get one.

For a $1.50 fee, drivers who have a transponder can replenish the balance at currency exchanges or computerized kiosks at 1,000 convenience stores and other retailers. Those who don't have an account will pay a surcharge of $2 to $3 to "toll-by-plate," meaning they'll be billed based on a digital photograph taken of their license plate as they drive through the toll gantry.

With 460 miles of highways and bridges, FTE is the state's largest tollroad system. Consulting firm PBS&J Corp. [] designed and implemented the program, which combines Blackstone Calling Card Inc. Touch-n-Buy prepaid cards, TIO Networks bill-payment kiosks, and ePay technology.