JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After being under construction for years, the express lanes on the Interstate 295 East Beltway in Jacksonville are set to open Saturday.
The Florida Department of Transportation took Action News Jax traffic expert Marcine Joseph on a tour of the express lanes before they open, giving her a chance to see what drivers will see this weekend.
Where are the lanes located?
The lanes stretch from State Road 9B to J. Turner Butler Boulevard.
To travel southbound, drivers will have to enter the express lanes at JTB, and, to travel northbound, drivers will have to enter the express lanes from State Road 9B at E-Town.
Right now, you can only exit off 9B, not onto the beltway. FDOT hopes to complete that exit ramp within three to six months.
Why did it take so long?
FDOT expected to have the construction finished by fall 2021, but, because of cold weather and adding an extra general purpose lane, the project was delayed.
“It feels like (we’ve) taken a little longer than normal, and that’s because we added a general use lane, which is an un-tolled lane on the outside of roadway,” said Hampton Ray, public information officer with FDOT.
The $139 million project began in spring 2016. Ray said FDOT saw an increase of traffic on the East Beltway.
“People are just flocking to our region. We are really excited for that, and we want to embrace that and help cultivate that growth,” Ray said.
How much will it cost to use them?
Drivers will only be charged during peak times, which are between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“You will see that will be 50 cents to start, and we will reevaluate that as the lanes continue to operate,” Ray said.
The express lane tolls will be free on weekends and holidays.
How are the tolls paid?
Drivers who plan to use the express lanes can either use a SunPass, EPASS or pay by plate.
Pay by plate: The car’s plate is scanned, and then a bill is sent to the driver’s home.
SunPass: Costs $4.99 for a decal and $19.99 for a transponder, which can be moved from car to car. Decals and transponders can be purchased at Publix, Walgreens, CVS or online.
EPASS: An EPASS sticker is free, and a transponder is $9.99. That program is based out of Central Florida, but sticker and transponders can be ordered online.
Are there other tolled roads in the Jacksonville area?
Yes. There are express lanes on the I-295 West Beltway that run from I-95 to the Buckman Bridge. They opened in May 2019.
There is also the First Coast Expressway, which when fully completed will cover 46 miles in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties. The first segment is completed and begins in Duval County off I-10 west of Chaffee Road and connects to Blanding Boulevard just before Middleburg. The second segment, which is mainly in Clay County, is currently under construction and the third segment, which is mainly in St. Johns County, will begin construction in 2023.
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