State funds $763M to replace Shands Bridge, extend beltway

Funding will complete $1.9 billion First Coast Expressway from I-10 to I-95

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott, state lawmakers and Florida Department of Transportation officials stood on the banks of the St. Johns River to announce the third and final phase of the First Coast Expressway, connecting Interstate 10 west of Jacksonville to I-95 near St. Augustine is now funded.

The final piece of the highway bypass through Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties will cost $763 million. It will extend the expressway and include a new, four-lane bridge that will replace the existing two-lane Shands Bridge that carries State Road 16 across the river. 

Crews are just finishing up the first phase the expressway, a 12-mile toll road between Interstate 10 in Jacksonville to Blanding Boulevard in Middleburg.

Last month, the second phase of the project, connecting the highway from Blanding to Green Cove Springs, is expected to begin next January. Phase Three, including the $317 million bridge, is to being in 2023 and be completed in 2030. The entire 46-mile project is expected to cost $1.9 billion and offering motorists and commercial vehicles an alternative to bypasses downtown Jacksonville.

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The First Coast Expressway will be the first toll road in Northeast Florida since the toll booths came down on four Duval County river crossings in 1989. The expressway will give drivers west of Jacksonville a quicker, more convenient route between I-10 to I-95 in St. Johns County. It will also offer another evacuation route to escape severe storms.

Cars will be charged from 20 cents to 85 cents to use Phase 1, depending on how far they travel on the initial route of the highway. Florida Department of Transportation crews are already testing and calibrating the five toll gantries that will either scan a SunPass or read the vehicle's license plate.

Tolls will begin sometime in the fall when Phase 1 is fully opened. The money will pay for construction and maintenance of the roadway.

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