It's a relatively unfamiliar program for Northeast Florida drivers. The Florida Department of Transportation says if you want to use the new express lanes you need to get a Sun Pass. Express lanes are going in along the West Beltway from the Buckman Bridge to I-95, on the East Beltway from State Road 9-B to JTB, and potentially along I-95 from Atlantic Boulevard to JTB, and then again at the I-95/I-295 interchange to International Golf Parkway. Sun Pass will also need to be used on the First Coast Expressway.
“Sun Pass is a prepaid toll system, so you will put money in to your account before you hop in the express lanes.” Says spokesperson with FDOT Hampton Ray.
Ray says having a Sun Pass is the only way to use the new express lanes with out getting a $25 fine. He says the toll rates will be priced depending on how much traffic is on the roads, basically when there are more people on the express lanes the higher the price will be and the less people on the express lanes the lower the price will be.
“The minimum toll is 50 cents and then it goes up in 15 cent increments that’s based on a computer algorithm and they still have some testing and what not to work through before we, ya know, find out what we kind of anticipate. To put it into perspective, in Miami, their peak hour speeds are a $1.85 in the evenings and about $2.25 in the mornings.” Ray says.
Ray says the prices will vary depending on traffic, but that’s what drivers in Northeast Florida can expect once the express lanes open.
Using the new express lanes is totally up to the driver, the free, or regular express lanes are not going anywhere. Ray says with the new express lanes opening up, traffic should flow smoother for everyone regardless of what lane they plan to use. He says with the express lanes opening the state is expecting speeds in the free lanes to rise from 7 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour during rush hours.
“That’s a significant improvement even for those people who are not choosing to pay the toll.” Ray says.
Once the lanes open and you’d like to take them, Rays says there could be a grace period where there are no tolls being charged, but he says FDOT will have a better idea on if that will happen as the state gets closer to opening them up. He says until a decision is made, use caution before getting on to the express lanes.
“When the express lanes do open I would expect to pay at least 50 cents and look at the dynamic toll boards, message boards, prior to entering the express lanes for the current price.” Ray says.
If you still need to get a Sun Pass, Ray says SunPass.com is the best way to get one and get it set up, meanwhile he says you can also get them at CVS Pharmacy and Publix.