JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you travel along the First Coast Expressway, your free ride will soon come to an end.
State Road 23 gives drivers a convenient route connecting I-10 on Jacksonville's Westside to Blanding Boulevard in Middleburg. It will be the first toll road in Northeast Florida since the Jacksonville toll booths came down in 1989.
A spokesperson with the Florida Department of Transportation told News4Jax that the toll gantries along the FCE are already working, but they are not charging drivers until the first phase of construction is complete.
On Tuesday, FDOT said that could be as soon as mid-November. On Wednesday, they called back and said they've decided not to charge until all the entry and exit ramps are completed early next year.
The New World Avenue and other ramps are still under construction and FDOT wants drivers to have full use of the roadway and the proper speed before the tolls are charged. Speeds in the area are reduced while there is construction.
In addition to completing the ramps, tweaks are being made to the drainage system and sign installations.
Drivers have been getting a free ride along SR-23 since June. But the shortcut between Duval and Clay counties will soon cost you between 20 cents and 85 cents per toll. There are five along the 12-mile route.
You can make things simple by purchasing a SunPass. It goes right on your car's windshield.
You can get a SunPass sticker or portable transponder at stores like Publix, Walgreens and CVS. After you set up your Sunpass account, it will be automatically charged each time you pass under the toll gantry.
If you don't have a Sunpass and use the First Coast Expressway, your license plate will be scanned and a bill will be sent to you in the mail. Mailed bills incur additional administration fees.
The toll money collected will be used to pay for construction and maintenance of the roadway.
Early next year, crews will break ground on the second phase of the expressway, connecting Blanding Boulevard to the St. Johns River in Green Cove Springs. There are future plans to replace the Shands Bridge and build the road out to I-95 near St. Augustine.
FDOT officials said signs will be posted for at least a week before tolls start being collected.