JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Drivers will have to wait a bit longer before using the express lanes along I-295 in Mandarin. The January completion date has been pushed back to summer.
The Florida Department of Transportation said bad weather isn't the only thing to blame for the slow progress.
For over three years, crews have been working on constructing express lanes along I-295 in Mandarin. It will allow drivers to bypass heavy traffic by using tolled lanes. But progress has been slow on the nearly 6-mile stretch from I-95 to the Buckman Bridge. It was supposed to be done in January.
FDOT tells News4Jax that relocating the drainage system is a major component of the express lanes project that's holding things up. As a result, crews had to build a new retention pond off Chapelgate Road and it could take subcontractors another two weeks to finish it."
FDOT said the primary contractor is responsible for hiring subcontractors that take on special projects like moving drainage systems. The issue is that the sub-contractor already has a laundry list of other projects across the state and severe weather can throw off scheduling.
However, FDOT said the contractors will be held accountable for delays that aren't caused by weather. When the project is complete, a lengthy process will begin where consulting engineers negotiate with contractors to recoup the extra cost incurred beyond the original contract.
Although some of the express lanes appear to be done, FDOT said they can't open the extra lanes to traffic because it's still a construction zone and could pose a danger to workers and drivers.
FDOT expects the express lanes to be completed sometime in the summer.
The second phase of the express lanes are underway along I-295 from State Road 9-B to Butler Boulevard. That portion is expected to be finished next year.
There is not expected to be a grace period before tolls are enforced on the I-295 Express Lanes project. Drivers can expect to pay a toll (minimum $0.50) when the lanes are open to traffic. Drivers must have an active SunPass in order to use the Express Lanes or they face a $25 fine in addition to paying the posted toll amount.