(WSVN) - South Floridians pay extra for the convenience of driving along the Interstate 95 express lanes, but 7Investigates has found some drivers were paying for something they didn’t get. 7’s Karen Hensel has the story.

Thousands of people use I-95, including Greg Vella, who makes the drive to work every day from Broward County to Miami Beach.

Greg Vella: “I’d rather live closer to family and take a longer commute than live closer to work and have to commute to see family.”

But when Greg started to notice new charges on his SunPass account, he started asking questions.

Turns out, he was being billed for driving in the express lane when he was actually driving in the lane next to it.

He alerted SunPass.

Greg Vella: “‘You have a transponder somewhere that’s activating and billing me, even though I’m not in the lane, just letting you know.'”

The toll cameras also took pictures of his car, and those clearly show he was driving to the right of the express lane dividers.

Greg Vella: “So it’s very easy for me to see in the image from SunPass that I wasn’t even in the lane, and I just kind of showed them that and was like, ‘You can see it in your own picture.'”

For added proof, Greg also hit record on his own dashcam to document his drives.

Greg Vella: “In case SunPass was like, ‘Oh well, we don’t have proof, or this and that.’ I was like, ‘Well, I got the proof. I can prove that I wasn’t in the lane.'”

Greg says he wasn’t charged much, just 50 cents each way, but for him, that’s not the point.

Greg Vella: “I mean, think about it. Thousands of people before and after me that are doing this. Each one is getting billed the 50 cents. And what’s even worse is, imagine you’re the guy who is not in the express lane, and you’re stuck in traffic, and all the people in the express lane are going nice and fast through there, and you’re getting billed just like they are, but you’re sitting in the traffic.”

He was right.

After filing a dispute with SunPass, he was told, “We have identified technical issues…” at the Stirling and Hallandale Beach overhead toll readers.

His account was credited, and he wasn’t the only one.

FDOT confirmed to 7investigates there were 791,000 mistaken transactions, racking up nearly $433,000 in incorrect toll charges.

So, how did this happen? FDOT says construction.

Greg Vella: “It’s clearly shown where there were two lanes to enter the HOV express lanes, but now it’s one.”

You can still see the marks left behind when the poles were moved — taking the express lane from two lanes down to one.

And FDOT says: “…The tolling equipment was not adjusted to account for the reduction in the number of lanes.”

They say the “issue came to the attention of the department on June 7, and immediate action was taken to update the system.”

But phone records show Greg started calling the state repeatedly three weeks before that, on May 17.

Greg Vella: “And I had asked like, ‘What about everyone else?’ And they said, ‘Oh, well, you know, we never heard of this happening before. They can just call and request credits.’ And it really didn’t sit well with me.”

FDOT tells us all affected customers have been refunded as of June 19. They call it an “isolated issue” and say this $433,000 mistake is a first among the I-95 express construction projects.

Karen Hensel, 7News.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
SunPass customer service center:
888-TOLL-FLA (888-865-5352)
sunpass.com/en/support/contactus.shtml

To file a dispute, log into your account:
sunpass.com/en/home/index.shtml

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