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Construction behind schedule on I-295 express lanes

FDOT: Mandarin lanes won't open until summer 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Construction is underway on the second phase of the express lanes along the I-295 east beltway. The lanes are designed to ease heavy traffic during rush hour.

But drivers will have to wait a little bit longer before they can use the express lanes along I-295 in Mandarin.

The Florida Department of Transportation said the construction is several months behind schedule.

FDOT spokesman David Fierro said the Mandarin express lanes were supposed to open by the end of 2016, but now they won't open until at least the summer of 2017.

“Weather. There were some other issues the contractor had as far as work crews and so forth,” Fierro said.

Fierro said the contractor has since worked everything out. He said it's not unusual to have some hiccups on a project as big as the express lanes.

The nearly $230 million project has two phases.

The first phase has been under construction since 2014, spanning from I-95 to the Buckman Bridge. The second phase will have express lanes between 9B and J. Turner Butler Boulevard.

"In our society, minutes mean dollars to people,” Fierro said. “If you're a tradesperson or whatever it might be, you're going to make a calculation. 'It's worth it for me to spend $1.50 today to make sure I get there on time.'”

There will be two additional express lanes in each direction closest to the median, and toll prices will range from 50 cents to a couple of dollars. FDOT said the idea is to use toll prices to control traffic. It's called the managed lane system.

"Say you're out there on the road and there's not any traffic in the express lanes. At that point, the toll's going to be lower. When it starts to get busy and fill up, then the toll's going to be raised to get the people who don't need to be in the lanes to get out of it,” Fierro said.

​Fierro said the express lanes will ease the congestion of rush-hour traffic and keep things on the beltway moving smoothly.

The money made from the express lane tolls will be used to maintain the lanes. Fierro said all of the extra money will be put toward other projects within the county.