GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation hosted an open house Thursday to preview the next phase of the First Coast Expressway, which connects Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties.
This will be the first toll road in Northeast Florida since the toll booths came down on four Duval County river crossings in 1989.
When it's all done, it will connect from Interstate 10 in Duval County, down to Clay County and across the St. Johns River to Interstate 95 in St. Johns County -- giving drivers west of Jacksonville a quicker, more convenient route between the two major interstates.
The expressway will also offer another evacuation route to escape severe storms.
An FDOT spokesperson told News4Jax it will start collecting tolls sometime in the spring. Some people living in Clay County are pretty optimistic about this project moving forward.
"I can't wait until they get this other part finished because it's a quick ride to St. Augustine," said Scott Towe, who lives in Lake Asbury.
Linda Hatcher, who lives in Clay County, said, "I used to work in Jacksonville and I always wanted a faster way to work rather than going through Orange Park. We finally got it and I'm retired now."
According to FDOT, about 85 percent of people in Clay County commute to Duval County to work every day. Right now, the First Coast Expressway provides a faster, more convenient route between I-10 and Blanding Boulevard.
"I like it, I just don't like the tolls," said Harold Hatcher, who lives in Clay County. "But it's worth it to go that way."
The first phase of the project wrapped up last year and runs through Clay and Duval counties. Phase two goes from Middleburg to the St. Johns River, and construction will continue in a few weeks. The third phase, slated to begin in 2023, will bring the First Coast Expressway across the river, with a new Shands Bridge to I-95 in St. Johns County.
An open house, previewing the phase two segment from Blanding Boulevard to State Road 16 in Clay County, was scheduled for 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday. It was held at the HNTB Project Field Office at 91 Branscomb Road Suite 14, in Green Cove Springs.