Tolls will return to northeast Florida as soon as 2016, as part of the long-delayed $1.8-billion Outer Beltway highway.
When completed, the 46.5 mile project will connect I-10 in western Duval County, travelling through Clay County, and ultimately connecting to I-95 in St. Johns County.
It was over 20 years ago that Duval County voters approved a sales tax increase in order to eliminate tolls from all the highways and bridges. In the years since, any talk of bringin back tolls has been met with strong opposition by public. The issue last reared up in September of 2011 when Lt. Governor Carroll and Mayor Brown were briefly at odds over the need for tolls to build the Outer Beltway.
The green light for the project was finally given Thursday by the Transportation Planning Organization Board. Construction on the intital phase is scheduled to begin next year.
The first stretch built will be from I-10, going south along Branan Field-Chafee Road, connecting to Blanding Blvd. in Clay County.
The four lane highway will bypass traffic lights at major intersections, but the connection will come with a price tag: five toll points. Mike Goldman with the Florida Dept. of Transportation says from I-10 to New World Avenue will not be tolled to encourage access to the Cecil Commerce Center, but from that point to Blanding will cost $2.20.
“Tolling on that corridor is the most realistic way to pay for the roads,” he says.
The tolls will not take effect until the entire stretch is complete, which he says should be in 2016. The tolls will be paid through a SunPass, which is an overhead monitor that prevents you from having to stop at a booth while you drive. Drivers would buy the device at area grocery or convenience stores.
The FDOT has outlined several non-tolled routes through the area, which you can see pictured to the left.
But that is only half of the full project.
The FDOT says there is no specifics available for when the portion from Blanding Blvd. in Clay County to I-95 in St. Johns County will begin or be completed, or the toll for driving along that stretch.
Impact to drivers during contruction.
Goldman says construction on the roadways will be done mainly at night to prevent lane closures from clogging your daily commute. Any necessary detours will also be in the overnight hours.