New Express Lanes – Northeast Florida

I-295 West Beltway express lanes sign reminds travelers southbound to be in the left lanes once they travel over the Buckman Bridge at the St. Johns River.

Northeast Florida has its first “Express Lanes” that opened recently on Interstate 295 (I-295) West Beltway in Jacksonville. Travelers will encounter the new restricted lanes on part of the south side of town near Orange Park.

General purpose lanes with no tolls will remain while tolls for the two Express Lanes in each direction will fluctuate depending on traffic volume. The tolls are designed to help balance traffic while allowing travelers a more predictable travel speed, at a minimum of 45 m.p.h.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Express Lanes will use time-of-day pricing. “Customers choosing to travel in the express lanes will only be charged during rush hour travel periods. A $0.50 static toll will be implemented Monday through Friday from 6:00 AM–10:00 AM and from 3:00 PM–7:00 PM. Customers will not be charged a toll to use the express lanes during all other times.”

Depending on the volume of vehicles, the toll may increase during peak traffic.

Video ride in the new express lanes in Jacksonville, Florida

Toll roads are not popular in northeast Florida and were removed years ago. At least travelers have a choice with the Express Lanes, while the effort helps with traffic congestion.

Northbound on I-295 toward St. Johns River

Jacksonville is one of the major locations for travelers entering and leaving Florida, especially on the east coast. Travelers will notice construction on major highways in and around Jacksonville, including work for additional Express Lanes. It’s best to check your routes beforehand, and have a map handy, as GPS directions may not be updated as frequently as the highway patterns change.

Southbound from St. Johns River toward I-95

Apps like Florida 511 (FL511) and WAZE provide fairly up-to-date information; but you may still need a map to navigate construction and by-pass routes in case of an emergency on the major highways.

More information about Florida’s Express Lanes is located at http://floridaexpresslanes.com/northeastfl/ .

If you need a SunPass during your visit to Florida, which could give you a discount on certain tolls, you may obtain one at a welcome center as you enter the state. Certain retailers have them too. I suggest checking the SunPass website for more information, including where the SunPass may be used in other states. https://sunpass.com

Safe travels in Florida!

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Know before you go

 

FLNG and law enforcement confer at checkpoint after Hurricane Michael - courtesy FLNG
Florida National Guard troops coordinate with law enforcement to assist them in road closures, safety and security.  (photo courtesy: Florida National Guard)

Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle with a 155 miles-per-hour fury and extensive storm surge.  It continued into Georgia as a hurricane wreaking significant damage and continues to impact much of the southeastern U.S.A.

Travelers through the southeastern U.S. need to keep aware of travel conditions as they will change regularly even after Hurricane Michael exits.

Thousands of emergency response team members are already working life-saving missions first, along with safety and security.  Thousands more from various areas are currently traveling to the impacted areas.

FLNG CERFP team briefs for Hurricane Michael mission - courtesy FLNG
Florida National Guard Soldiers discuss plans prior to conducting assigned tasks.  (photo courtesy:  Florida National Guard)

There are more than 3,000 Florida National Guard troops on active status already working missions in support of key agencies.

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management is overseeing and coordinating response efforts as directed by Florida’s Governor Rick Scott.   The U.S. Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been planning and positioning support to assist respective state governments and are already performing duties.

It is not feasible to identify all of those responding, as practically every local, state and federal U.S. agency is working on behalf of the citizens and guests.

Some of the first ones responding to help save lives involves the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  They normally respond with a variety of specialized equipment, including shallow draft boats, ATVs, airboats and four-wheel-drive vehicles.  They all work in conjunction with law enforcement and fire/rescue agencies.

If you are considering traveling through the southeastern U.S., please travel only if necessary – at least until the major response and recovery efforts allow you to safely do so.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) highly suggests using one of their preferred tools to monitor roadway conditions.  Florida 511.  Also, please be aware that many of the roadways throughout the path of the storm are closed due to damage or being under water. It is best not to drive through water.  “Turn around, don’t drown.”

FDOT 511 header for hurricane

Know before you go. 

Information on roadway conditions and closures is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Florida 511. Drivers may dial 511 from their mobile phones to receive updates. (Please stop safety while using the device or let a passenger use it.) 511 is a free resource, however, cell phone minutes and text message charges may apply. Updates are also available on the web at www.FL511.com.

Florida’s emergency management website, https://www.floridadisaster.org/info, provides excellent information to assist residents and guests.

Georgia Tips

Georgia’s Department of Transportation Special Response Teams will begin clearing impacted roadways once the worst of the storm passes. In the event of major flooding, crews will wait until waters recede to begin clean up. Priority routes will be cleared first to ensure the public maintains access to hospitals, trauma centers and other public facilities.

  • Call 511 to report flash flooding, downed trees or other obstructions on roadways or bridges impeding travel
  • Take shelter as the system passes through the state
  • Do not to drive around barricades that are in place for motorist’s safety or through standing water
  • Residents should never clear tree limbs, downed trees or debris from roadways, as live power lines could be tangled in debris and cause injury or death; instead, wait for Georgia DOT and Georgia Power crews
  • Motorists who must drive should always treat flashing red and non-operational signals as a four-way stop

For real-time road conditions, call 511 or visit Georgia511. For weather information, visit the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, or the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Georgia. http://www.dot.ga.gov/AboutGeorgia/Pages/GDOTAnnouncementDetails.aspx?postID=852

Check other states (typically their 511) if you plan to travel to get the latest on travel information.  It may save time, money and your life.

Thank you for partnering with me on these latest posts.  I felt compelled to provide as much safety information as possible during crisis situations.  I’ll resume my normal travel posts soon.  Thank you!

Blessings!

Ron