NOTE: This post has been updated. Scroll down for more information on tolls and how revenue from express lanes is spent.
The third phase of the Interstate 95 express lanes will come into southern Palm Beach County, and the project will include some notable changes along the corridor.
That was the message from Florida Department of Transportation planners and consultants at a public workshop on the express lanes held Thursday evening in Deerfield Beach.
About 25 people attended, including consultants and residents. Also in the crowd were state Rep. Irv Slosberg and his daughter, Emily Slosberg, who won the August primary election for state House District 91 and faces only a blank write-in spot on Nov. 8.
Both Slosbergs said they were attending to learn more about the project to help inform their constituents.
“We’re going to get the word out to them to let them know about lane closures and the timeline,” Emily Slosberg said.
Here are seven key things you should know now about the project. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, post it in the comments and we’ll look into it.
What’s the deal with the phases? The 95 Express project is actually one huge undertaking broken up into three phases. Phase 1 opened in 2008 in Miami-Dade County. Phase 2 opened recently, connecting southern Broward to northern Miami-Dade. Phase 3 goes from central Broward up to south of Linton Boulevard in Palm Beach County.
FDOT then broke Phase 3 into five parts to help it get funded and built faster. Phase 3A, from Broward Boulevard to south of Southwest 10th Street, is under construction now. The meeting Thursday discussed Phase 3B, which picks up from Southwest 10th Street and goes up to Linton. Both Phase 3A and 3B have two parts. Construction on Phase 3C, which will connect Phase 2, Phase 3 and the 595 express lanes in Broward County, is scheduled to start in 2021.
Here’s a map from FDOT, including current timelines. The red and blue arrows represent the entry and exit points for the express lanes.
When is it happening? Construction on Phase 3B is expected to begin in mid-2018, according to Thursday’s presentation.
How much will it cost to use the express lanes? Will Suero, FDOT consultant and project engineer, said Thursday that he expects the express lanes to cost about 50 cents per segment, which is the minimum they could cost set by Florida law. The tolls are dynamic, meaning they vary based on how congested the express lanes are. A segment is defined as a portion of the express lanes from an entry, or ingress, point to an exit, or egress, point.
Where the express lanes in Miami-Dade have a cap — $1.50 a mile — the express lanes north of mile marker 12, the Golden Glades interchange, do not. Suero said via email that while those express lanes are included in Florida’s current tolling law, the tolling rules for Phase 3 aren’t yet established.
“It is anticipated that minimum per segment costs will be identified with the (law) applying to 95 Express Phase 3,” Suero said.
There shouldn’t be cause for concern, said Paul Lampley, resident engineer for the express lanes construction project. The price per segment is kept as low as possible to ease congestion, he added.
“So people know when they get in (the express lanes), they get where they’re going,” Lampley said.
What happens to the HOV lanes? During construction of the express lanes, the HOV, or high-occupancy vehicle, lane will be “decommissioned,” meaning it will be just like every other lane on the highway, Suero said. The HOV signage will come down, the diamond symbol will be removed from the road and the HOV restrictions will no longer be in place.
“The nature of the project is to provide additional capacity by widening the road, taking the HOV lane and constructing dual express lanes,” Suero said.
Will new noise walls be built? Yes, in some places. Noise walls already exist along much of the corridor between Southwest 10th Street and Linton, but there are some gaps that the project plans to address.
One in particular is between the southbound lanes of I-95 and the Mizner Forest neighborhood in Boca Raton. One FDOT planner said that is the “worst spot” for noise. The neighborhood, which sits about 80 feet from the highway, was built after the most recent I-95 widening project in southern Palm Beach County, so this is the first opportunity FDOT will have to address the noise issue.
What other changes will be made as part of the project? Auxiliary lanes will be added along the stretch, providing extra space for motorists exiting I-95. Crews also will replace the Clint Moore Road bridge over I-95, because there is not enough room under the existing structure to widen the highway, Suero said.
The I-95 bridge over the Hillsboro Canal also must be replaced. It “has a long history of structural deficiencies,” so “it could be left in place, but not widened,” Suero said.
Some trees will be moved during construction, and FDOT will make landscaping changes in those spots once construction is completed.
The southbound on-ramp to I-95 from westbound Palmetto Park Road will be rebuilt, and the southbound off-ramp there will be realigned.
So there’s a Phase 3 — what about a Phase 4? FDOT is in the very beginning stages of studying another phase of express lanes from Linton Boulevard to Indiantown Road in Jupiter, Suero said. Stay tuned to The Palm Beach Post for coverage as we learn more about that possible Phase 4.
UPDATE: We’ve seen a few comments inquiring about how revenue from the express lanes is spent.
Money from express-lanes tolls goes first to pay for operation, improvement and maintenance of the express lanes and I-95. Any additional revenue is used for maintenance of other Florida highways, and also to fund an Express Bus service along the corridor. Here’s the Florida law authorizing the express lanes and how the money is used.
The current Express Buses are operated by Broward and Miami-Dade counties’ transit agencies. Click here for more information.