FDOT to discuss I-295 toll express lanes

1 addition would be between Buckman Bridge, I-95

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A new addition is coming to the Interstate 295 West Beltway between the Buckman Bridge and Interstate 95.

The Florida Department of Transportation is discussing the implementation of high-occupancy express lanes to alleviate traffic congestion. Drivers wanting to use those lanes would have to pay a toll.

Doug Nelson, who's from Miami, thinks the tolls would be OK.

"I'm from the south, south in Florida, so I'm used to the tolls, and it actually speeds up some if you want to pay it in the express lanes," Nelson said.

Many drivers agree that area of the beltway is a nightmare during rush hour. Some are willing to buck up and pay for less traffic, while others want a free ride.

"I would rather keep as much money in my pocket as I can, but they're going to do what they're going to do," driver Taylor Gay said. "They really make the choices up there, not us, not the people."

"Anytime that tolls are imposed, the economy is really bad, and people need to get to work and they're not going to be able to afford it," driver Yvonne Black said.

Mayor Alvin Brown says he's against the idea of a toll road. Tommy Hazouri was mayor when toll roads were done away with in 1989. Hazouri says tolls increased congestion and pollution, so the community voted more than 20 years ago to get rid of them.

"As a result of that, the people spoke and they took them off, but that doesn't account for the state," Hazouri said. "The state says we've made no promise."

There's an opportunity for drivers to learn more about the express lanes and tell FDOT what they think. The department is holding a public hearing Tuesday at the Ramada Conference Center in Mandarin beginning at 4:30 p.m.

FDOT says toll prices would vary depending on the demand during peak travel times.

The other automated tolls will run from Interstate 95 to the Dames Point Bridge on the Northside, and from Butler Boulevard to State Road 9B -- once it's complete.

The express lanes are projected to open in 2017.

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