Toll roads are returning to the First Coast with Interstate 95 the most high-profile project in the planning stages.
The Florida Department of Transportation is moving toward adding express toll lanes on I-95 between the southern side of Interstate 295 in Duval County and International Golf Parkway in St. Johns County.
The plans call for adding two express lanes in each direction and using the SunPass toll system that's already used in much of Central and South Florida. The existing I-95 lanes would remain free.
FDOT’s plan calls for the new express lanes to connect to the future First Coast Expressway, which will also be a toll road along with County Road 210 and State Road 9B.
The project has an estimated $236 million price tag with construction expected to begin in 2023.
"That is currently in our five year work program. With regard to funding, that could slide, based on a number of different factors. So at this point we're still expecting a mix between state and federal funding," said FDOT spokesman Hampton Ray, who added the project is "currently in the land acquition phase."
Projected growth (see map) in Duval and St. Johns counties has been cited by FDOT as a primary reason the toll lanes are needed.
Express lanes have been around for years in Miami. FDOT saw significant speed increases once they were added, according to a study done in 2014 and 2015:
I-95 Express 2014-2015 Annual Report Results For Miami:
Before Express Lanes (Peak Period Speed, 2008)
- Northbound - 20 MPH, Southbound - 15 MPH
After Express Lanes (Peak Period Speed, 2014)
- Northbound – 63 MPH in Express Lanes / 55 MPH in General Use Lanes
- Southbound - 64 MPH in Express Lanes / 56 MPH in General Use Lanes
FDOT has also been looking at adding toll express lanes to I-95 between J. Turner Butler Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard as WJCT News has previously reported.
"It's still very early in the process. It's still got several steps to go before construction on that," said Ray regarding the Butler/Atlantic express tolls lanes project. Previously that project was forecast to possibly begin as early as 2022.
Construction of express toll lanes on I-295 between the Buckman Bridge and I-95 is also underway, with that project expected to be completed by summer's end, although Ray added that depending on the weather and other factors, the completion date could slip into fall.
Longer term, Ray said the goal is to eventually bring express lanes to the entire I-295 loop around Jacksonville. He also asked that motorists keep the construction in perspective.
“We understand it can be frustrating to see construction but it is a temporary inconvenience for a more permanent transportation solution,” said Ray.