Northeast Florida Roundup
Pay Roads: Jacksonville residents thought toll roads were gone for good
Duval drivers thought they were rid of tolls forever.
Nearly 30 years after the last Jacksonville tollbooths were demolished, tolls are returning to northeast Florida. The first leg of the First Coast Expressway (SR 23), a 46-mile tollway connecting the west side of Jacksonville to Clay and St. Johns counties, is scheduled to open by the spring, and additional express toll lanes along I-295 in south Jacksonville will also be completed.
Drivers can use a SunPass to pay. A license plate camera system will assess tolls on cars that use the expressway without a SunPass. The express lanes along I-295 can only be accessed by SunPass users.
Many Duval County residents thought tolls were gone forever after they approved a halfcent sales tax in 1988 to replace Jacksonville’s remaining bridge and highway tolls. However, new highways are needed to handle the area’s growth, says Department of Transportation spokesman Hampton Ray, and toll revenue was the quickest way to fund construction.
Clay County commuters working in Jacksonville were par- ticularly interested in the expressway, which could save them 15 minutes on their drive to work, Ray says. The DOT expects 18,000 vehicles a day to use SR 23 from I-10 in Jacksonville to Blanding Boulevard in Clay County.
“We do think people who live along State Road 23 will see a value to their commute,” Ray says.
The first leg costs $208 million, funded by bonds that will be repaid by the tolls. Construction on the next leg connecting Blanding to SR 16 at the St. Johns River begins in January 2019 and will cost $507 million.
Funding for the final leg, which will connect the expressway to I-95 in St. Johns County has not been set.