It was expected to open Wednesday, but that was pushed back until Thursday morning. Last week Governor Rick Scott announced the soon-to-open I-95 Southbound flyover ramp to Butler Blvd. The 1,400-foot ramp was first announced by Governor Scott in November 2013. This is easing congestion on I-95 Southbound exiting off at Butler because drivers heading Eastbound will no longer have to stop at the cycling light at JTB. Instead, they’ll use the direct access two lane road. Bianca Speights, FDOT PIO, says “We expect for this to alleviate a lot of congestion and improve the safety through the area as well.” The delay comes for unexpected problems as crews removed the striping. Bianca Speights tells us contractors laid new striping and opened it on Thursday morning. The opening of the flyover ramp from I-95 Southbound is the first phase of the project. Next construction crews will open the second phase by placing Butler Blvd Westbound lanes into their final configuration. As construction continues through the area, Speights adds, “This is still an active construction zone and be aware that there are workers there still.” Express Lanes of the I-295 Beltway between the Buckman Bridge and Butler You’ve driven through the construction zone on the I-295 W Beltway between the Buckman Bridge and I-95 for the better part of a year and a half. Drivers have felt the pain of a disabled vehicle blocking a lane due to a lack of shoulders while roadwork continues. Orange Park and Mandarin drivers should soon sigh a bit of relief on their daily commutes. The 5.7 mile stretch on the I-295 W Beltway from the Buckman Bridge to I-95 is on schedule and expected for completion early 2018. Two twelve-foot toll lanes on either side will open giving drivers choice in their commute. Currently, average speeds during peak times average less than 10 mph. Once the Express Lanes open, FDOT is expected speeds to average 20mph during peak times on the current roads and no less than 45 mph on the express lanes. Drivers will need to purchase a prepaid Sunpass card that the cost of use will automatically be deducted from their account as they pass through in order to use the express lanes, The prices for lanes are dynamic, meaning they fluctuate. The slower the normal lanes are, the more expensive the express lanes and vice versa. An important factor for drivers to consider before using the lanes; they are straight through, meaning once you enter them at the start of the Buckman Bridge you will need to stay on them through I-95. No exiting available onto San Jose or Old St Augustine Rd. This also means if there is a crash blocking a lane ahead, drivers will not be able to hop on to the express lanes after the entrance for them later when it is convenient to do so. FDOT is aware that drivers use the express lanes to save time. Should there be an incident causing lane restrictions in those lanes, Hampton Ray Public Information Officer for FDOT says, “We’ll make sure the price is not applied to your Sunpass account.” Ray further commented on the impact these lanes will have to drivers, “We think these will be a great addition to the roadway and give drivers more of a choice with their commute.” Express Lanes on the I-295 E Beltway between 9B and Butler Blvd This project is designed to ease congestion for drivers along the I-295 E Beltway in the same manner the express lanes along the I-295 W Beltway will. These lanes are scheduled for completion in Spring of 2018. As with the I-295 W Beltway Express Lanes, they are through lanes meaning that drivers will need to stay on them between 9B and Butler Blvd. Northbound drivers will have an option of using a direct flyover at Butler Blvd where they can exit Eastbound or Westbound or stay along the I-295 E Beltway Northbound. On the I-295 E Beltway Southbound, drivers will get onto the express lanes before Butler Blvd, closer to Town Center Pkwy. As with the I-295 West Beltway, Hampton Ray says that once the lanes open up so will the shoulders along the I-295 E Beltway. This will allow for stalled vehicles and crashes to clear lanes of travel much faster. Ray noted that through the construction time, FDOT patrols the area with Road Rangers to assist any stalled vehicles with gas or flat tires. This is a free service offered to all drivers traveling through the impacted roads. Future express lane projects, including I-95 at Atlantic and I-95 at International Golf Pkwy, are in the study phases and construction is not expected to begin on those until 2020. 95 Overland Bridge Project In 2013 the Florida Department of Transportation began the Overland Bridge Project to improve the flow of traffic on I-95 Northbound and Southbound through the Downtown area of Jacksonville Florida. The project encompasses a 2.3 mile stretch. As it stands now, drivers can exit off I-95 Nothbound onto the Downtown exits at the Main Street or Acosta Bridge. Upon completion, that will change. Drivers will need to make a decision at Emerson to continue or I-95 NB lanes through Downtown or take the lanes heading into Downtown Jacksonville. FDOT Spokesperson Ron Tittle says FDOT will post signs leading up to it informing drivers, but for those who do take the 95 side, if they need to get into Downtown they will have to turn around after Downtown and come back through. Ron Tittle says, “We are still looking at late fall type of timeframe to have the project completed.” In regards to the Northbound lanes of I-95. FDOT will also ease congestion for those leaving the Downtown area on the Southbound side by adding an additional lane of travel. First Coast Expressway The First Coast Expressway is designed to ease congestion along the I-295 W Beltway and Orange Park and I-10. The first segment of the $77-million-dollar project is on time and scheduled for completion in spring 2018. The lanes, when opened, will become toll roads. There are similarities between the First Coast Expressway and the express lanes opening on the I-295 Beltway. Drivers will be able to use their SunPass for both roads, but First Coast Expressway drivers will have an option to use ‘Toll by Plate’. However, those who use it will be charged an additional $2.50 administration fee. Hampton Ray, Public Information Officer at FDOT, urges drivers to save money by using a SunPass Instead. Commuters taking State Road 23 but not wishing to use the express lanes will have the option of exiting at New Wold Avenue to avoid the toll. Challenger and Discovery Rd will also be a viable option to those wishing to avoid the toll fees. The larger project will eventually connect SR-23 to the Shands Bridge, replacing the Shands Bridge, and then over to I-95. This will allow St Johns commuters to use the First Coast Expressway rather than I-95 Northbound up to I-10. Reconstruction of the Shands Bridge has been funded and expects to start in 2019. The third phase, which connects the Shands Bridge to I-95, has not been funded as of yet. Upon completion, the First Coast Expressway will give drivers a 46 mile stretch of road of non-stop 70 mph travel.