JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Transportation will begin collecting tolls in about 30 days on the First Coast Expressway, the new highway connecting Interstate 10 just east of Baldwin in Duval County to Blanding Boulevard, north of Middleburg in Clay County.
Parts of the highway have opened over the last year as construction was completed, but the toll gantries are now in place and most of the highway will become a toll road by mid-July, according to DOT.
The expressway will be free from I-10 to New World Avenue. South of New World, tolls for cars, SUVs and light trucks will vary from 20 cents to 85 cents, depending on how far you travel and how the toll is collected. (See chart below)
"The toll roads just give drivers another option to get where they're going," said Sara Pleasants, FDOT community relations specialist. "They're certainly optional. There are still other routes you can take ... if you don't want to use the First Coast Expressway and pay the tolls."
Traffic will pass through electronic toll gantries without stopping, and cash will not be accepted on the expressway. Tolls paid through SunPass will be substantially less than toll-by-plate, plus there is a $2.50 monthly administrative fee assessed for using tolls-by-plate.
Unlike the new tolls on I-295 between the Buckman Bridge and Interstate 95 -- where SunPass is needed to access the express lanes during peak travel times but other, non-tolled lanes are available -- the First Coast Expressway requires a toll to use south of New World Avenue.
Toll-by-plate is not an option for the express lanes, but is available to pay the fee on the new expressway, which will be the first fully tolled highway in Northeast Florida since 1989, when Jacksonville voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund roads rather than pay tolls on Jacksonville's major bridges and J. Turner Butler Boulevard.
"July will be here before we know it, so we encourage motorists to buy their SunPass transponders and get their accounts set up now to ensure they pay the lowest rate possible when tolling begins," FDOT District Two Secretary Greg Evans said.
SunPass transponders -- which can already be used to pay tolls on the express lanes of Interstate 295 between the Buckman Bridge and Interstate 95 that opened last month -- can be purchased at Publix, CVS and Walgreens stores, as well as online at SunPass.com.
Construction is underway to extend The First Coast Expressway through southern Clay County to Green Cove Springs. In 2023, work will begin to extend across the St. Johns River and across western St. Johns County to connect to Interstate 95. FDOT said the expressway will ultimately provide another way to connect between I-10 and I-95 will help with congestion on other major roads and serve as another evacuation route during severe storms.
For more information about the project, visit this website: First Coast Expressway
Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.