Tolls coming to Interstate 295 by 2017

Road widening project to start in 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Transportation announced Thursday that by 2017, drivers can expect to pay tolls to pass sections of Interstate 295.

Officials say they are going to widen three stretches of I-295, and one lane in each direction would have a toll for drivers who want to avoid congestion and traffic.

Officials say the tolls will be added for two reasons. One is money, with officials saying the state needs to find a way to make more revenue for future projects. The other is convenience, as officials say it will give people the option to try and beat traffic by paying a premium.

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

FDOT spokesman Mike Goldman said this has been planned for a while, and he thinks it will make things easier for drivers in the long run.

"It will also give people the choice: If they want to get to an area quicker, they can pay for it, and the tolls would be time-of-day pricing," Goldman said. "You would pay more to use them during your congested hours versus your non-peak hours."

The road widening project will cost about $150 million in state funds. The project is expected to start in 2014 and end in 2016 or 2017, when the automated tolls will be installed.

Mayor Alvin Brown affirmed his stance in opposition to the tolls.

"As I have said previously, I do not support tolls," Brown said in a statement. "My goal is to ensure that Jacksonville residents who use these highways continue to have access to free lanes at all times."

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