FDOT answers your questions about tolled express lanes

Express lanes between I-95, Buckman Bridge expected to be completed early 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The express lanes along Interstate 295 are closer to completion.

The stretch between the Buckman Bridge and Interstate 95 on Jacksonville's Southside will be the first toll lanes to open next year. 

With cones, cones and more cones -- driving through the construction zone along I-295 in Mandarin can be a pain. But there is progress.

The express lanes between I-95 and the Buckman Bridge are expected to be completed early next year. Traffic signs are already up throughout the area.

Still, many have express concerns about the express lanes, so News4Jax went to the Florida Department of Transportation to get answers. 

With two additional express lanes in each direction, some are concerned traffic will get clogged up at the Buckman Bridge when the road is reduced from five to four lanes. FDOT research shows most of the traffic gets backed up at the San Jose Boulevard and Old St. Augustine Road exits during peak hours. Those traveling in the express lanes will not be able to get off at those exits, freeing up space.

"We expect any bottlenecking to spread out and allow people to use the entire roadway and use the entire facility the way it's intended to be used," said Hampton Ray, with FDOT. 

The express lanes will taper off at the Buckman Bridge, keeping traffic moving.

For those asking about the speed limit, it will remain the same. But many drivers don't even reach that speed in the first place. FDOT reports traffic moves less than 10 mph during peak times. With the express lanes, FDOT expects traffic in the free lanes to increase to 20 mph, and traffic in the express lanes to move around 45 mph during peak hours.

And no, drivers don't have to use the express lanes. 

"If you don't pay a toll, you'll still see a benefit because it is managed lanes so it is adding capacity to the roadway," Ray said. 

The price of the toll has not yet been determined.