Saturday, June 09, 2018
TOLL LANES ON TAP: Construction of optional ‘Express Lanes’ to begin in 2023. (SAR)
1.Three cheers for Rose Bailey: Rose blew the whistle on FDOT's secretive toll road plans after hearing a vague phrase ("managed lanes") in a lobbyist-PR presentation at Monday night's St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting.
2. Good reporting by Sheldon Gardner. Sheldon Gardner followed up and asked questions and demanded answers from FDOT. She saw and heard St. Augustine Beach City Commission candidate Rose Bailey and me ask questions of North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (NFTPO) liaison-lobbyist and St. Augustine Beach Commissioners about a vague line about "managed lines" in a Monday, June 4, 2018 presentation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Managed_lane
3. Is this is a sneaky roadbuilder mafia and RICK SCOTT trick? A devious way of imposing and inflicting toll lanes on us, with mellifluous euphemisms and secrecy?
4. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it best, "SECRECY IS FOR LOSERS."
5. Enough secrecy. Enough promiscuous, reflexive, robotic roadbuilding here in "God's country." We the People, must be involved in transportation planning.
6. FDOT must be legally forbidden to inflict toll roads without a countywide referendum.
7. Let's insist that FDOT provide public transportation. Now. It's our money.
TOLL LANES ON TAP: Construction of optional ‘Express Lanes’ to begin in 2023.
By Sheldon Gardner
Posted at 6:13 AM
Updated at 6:13 AM
St. Augustine Record
About five years from now, a construction project is expected to begin that will bring toll lanes to part of Interstate 95 in St. Johns County.
They won’t be typical toll lanes, though. They’re called Express Lanes, which are optional lanes intended to ease congestion on the whole corridor and give drivers an option for a more reliable travel time in their commutes, according to Hampton Ray, Florida Department of Transportation spokesman. Regular lanes won’t have a toll.
The FDOT plans to start construction in 2023 on adding two Express Lanes in each direction on I-95 from International Golf Parkway and past the Duval County line to the I-95/Interstate 295 South interchange, according to Ray. Once construction begins, the project should be finished within four years unless there are unexpected delays.
The FDOT is planning the project to help ease congestion because of population growth and because traffic counts are expected to grow, according to Ray.
St. Johns County grew from about 190,000 residents in 2010 to about 244,000 in 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
County Commissioner Jimmy Johns, who also serves on the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, said he expects both the population and the number of drivers on the road to continue to grow in St. Johns County.
“That’s why this [project] is ... occurring,” he said. “They’re not expecting this to stop and contract anytime soon,” he said.
Express Lanes are already on I-95 in South Florida, and Northeast Florida’s first Express Lanes are expected to open this year on I-295 from the Buckman Bridge to I-95, according to Ray. More Express Lanes are planned to open in 2019 on I-295 from State Road 9B to J. Turner Butler Boulevard.
St. Augustine Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, who is also a board member on North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, said Express Lanes are “being used more and more frequently with the FDOT now. ... The preferred method of building regional connectors is to build an Express Lane. They work.”
To use them, drivers put a SunPass transponder in their vehicle. There’s no stopping to pay a toll and no pay-by-plate system, according to Ray. The minimum toll will be 50 cents, and that will increase with demand and depend on how many drivers are using the lanes at one time.
Ray outlined the basics of St. Johns County’s project in emails to The Record.
No existing lanes will be converted to an Express Lane, but the project will add two lanes in each direction on I-95. The cost estimate for the construction of the lanes from I-95 to the I-295 interchange is $236 million, which is expected to come from a mix of federal and state funding.
While the Express Lanes are a way to get through traffic — with typical speeds of about 45 mph during busy times — other areas that have used them have seen reduced congestion in regular lanes, according to Ray.
Sikes-Kline said reducing congestion and creating broader connections in the region are the focus of transportation planners.
“That’s what’s going on a lot in the northern part of the county: trying to connect the people that live in the northern part of the county up to the jobs in Duval,” she said. “It’s been on the radar for years. This is a piece of the bigger puzzle.”