JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the Jacksonville area's busiest interchanges is about to get a lot smoother.
The heavy equipment and orange cones will soon disappear as the I-95/J. Turner Butler Boulevard Interchange nears completion.
The eastbound Butler Boulevard flyover ramp to I-95 should be finished Sept. 6, giving tens of thousands of drivers who make their way through the intersection some much-needed relief. Transportation officials have not yet announced what time the ramp will open that day.
Once the ramp is open, drivers from the east going to the west end of Butler Boulevard will no longer have to stop at a traffic light, like they do now. The light will be gone, and they will be able to go straight through.
For more than four years, drivers have gone through the area, usually at a snail’s pace during morning and evening rush hour, as crews worked to get the major project done.
Certain areas, like Butler Boulevard eastbound to I-95 north and south, are open, as are the new ramps from Butler Boulevard westbound to I-95 north and south. Still, with the flyover not open, the area has not only been a frustration, but also a danger for drivers.
“For the last probably eight years, it's been a parking lot every morning and every evening. This is going to solve a lot of problems for a lot of our citizens,” U.S. Rep. John Rutherford said. “It was also a public safety issue. When you have traffic backing up onto a super-highway -- that's never a good thing when you have stopped cars and cars doing 70.”
Rutherford, Gov. Rick Scott and other state and local representatives took part in a ceremonial ribbon cutting Wednesday to mark the near completion of the project.
According to Ron Tittle, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation, the eastbound Butler Boulevard flyover ramp to I-95 will be completed and opened first. The rest of the overpass is expected to open in the fall.
“Highway construction is a temporary inconvenience for a long-term solution. Be patient with us,” Greg Evans, FDOT District 2 secretary, said. “In the end, we will enhance the quality of life, decrease your commute times and give you time to be back home with family and friends.”
FDOT said some lines and markings still need to be painted on the roadway. After the construction is complete, the engineers will need to inspect the overpass before the ramps begin to open.
The project, started in 2013, cost $78 million and will improve traffic conditions in the Southside area.
Here's a breakdown of the roadway improvements made as part of the project, provided by FDOT:
- Widening, reconstruction and/or milling and resurfacing of SR 202 between US 1 (Philips Highway) to approximately 2,800 feet east of Belfort Road.
- Widening or full reconstruction of I-95 within the limits of the interchange.
- Widening and/or reconstruction of the I-95 and SR 202 on/off ramps, which includes the reconstruction of the I-95 northbound off ramp to accommodate a westbound SR 202 turning movement.
- Construction of a new two-lane, 1,400 foot long, flyover bridge to accommodate I-95 southbound to SR 202 eastbound traffic.
- Reconstruction of the I-95 over SR202 mainline bridges.
- Construction of a new roadway configuration and new bridge to eliminate the existing weave interactions along SR 202 westbound at the I-95 northbound ramp.
- Permanently close the access to Salisbury Road North from SR 202 westbound.
- Reconstruction of the SR 202/Salisbury Road South intersection to provide right-in, right-out movements.
- Widening, full reconstruction and/or milling and resurfacing of Salisbury Road South within the specified limits.
- Construction of noise walls along SR 202 westbound, I-95 northbound and I-95 southbound.
- Construction of new signalization along SR 202 at US 1 (Philips Highway), Bonneval Road and the I-95 northbound and southbound off ramps.