Jacksonville, FL - If you choose to use the Express Lanes on I-295 in Mandarin, you’ll only face a toll during peak travel times.
The Florida Department of Transportation says they’ve decided to use “time of day tolling” on the lanes, meaning drivers during peak hours will face a toll of at least fifty cents, but that will vary depending on congestion. Off-hours use will not be tolled. The peak hours are defined right now as week days from 6AM through 10AM and 3PM to 7PM.
“During the weekends, you are toll free. You can expect to use the additional capacity on the roadway to get you where you need to go a little bit faster,” says FDOT Spokesperson Hampton Ray.
VIDEOS: How to use the Mandarin Express Lanes
The decision was made at the local level in order to best meet local needs, according to Ray. He says they want to have a good travel experience for all drivers, and believe this pricing method for the Express Lanes will achieve that.
“This is all about making sure that people have choices in their commute during the mornings and the afternoons, based on the time of day. And then, of course, it’s about adding capacity to the roadway for all drivers on the roadway, during those non-peak hours,” Ray says.
There will be electronic signs that indicate the current toll. During the off-peak hours, Ray says those signs will indicate tolls are not being enforced.
The lanes formally open on Saturday, meaning the first day of tolling is Monday. You must have a SunPass to pay the tolls, although FDOT says some other transponders- including Georgia’s Peach Pass and Central Florida’s E-PASS- will work as well. Cash and toll-by-plate will not be accepted.
There are two lanes in each direction of I-295 between I-95 and the Buckman Bridge, providing a direct commute separate from the other existing travel lanes. There are no entry or exit points for Old St. Augustine and San Jose, and only two-axle vehicles are allowed.
The lanes are separated by orange pole delineators that are made of a hard plastic and positioned five feet apart. They are secured with a durable epoxy, so Ray warns that you should not try to get in or out of the Express Lanes by driving through them, because that will not only damage your vehicle, but could lead to a fine.
While there will be toll collection at peak travel times, Ray says the whole purpose of the project is not the money.
“It’s not designed for revenue generation. There are much more efficient ways to generate revenue. This is designed to manage the traffic on the roadway and provide that better transportation experience,” he says.
The revenue largely goes toward local roadway maintenance, according to Ray. He says after the lanes open they will be examining how they’re used, and it’s possible the peak travel hours could be redefined.
The current plan is to also use “time of day tolling” for the Express Lanes currently under construction on the East Beltway from State Road 9B to JTB. That stretch is slated to be complete this fall.