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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.


  • COO Jim O’Leary was promoted to the additional role of president of Jacksonville-based Haskell. O’Leary takes over day-today operations of the architecture, engineering and construction firm. Steve Halverson remains CEO.
  • Larry Appel, a former top executive of Winn-Dixie, became CEO of specialty grocer Fresh Market. Appel had recently been CEO of Skeeter Snacks.
  • Unison Industries named Tom Hoferer president and CEO. Hoferer had been a support leader for GE Aviation’s business and general aviation business.
  • Leon Haley will become CEO of UF Health Jacksonville after Russ Armistead retires in January. Haley continues as dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville.
  • Peter Hoang, a veteran of investment banking and biomedical research companies, became president and CEO of TapImmune. Former CEO Glynn Wilson remains chairman.

Spotlight: Flood Delay

The revamped One Spark innovation festival, scheduled for early October, was postponed until April 2018 after Hurricane Irma flooded major sections of downtown Jacksonville. The festival, launched in 2013 as a major weeklong downtown event, is being transformed into a two-day show at EverBank Field and its adjacent amphitheater. One Spark Ventures President Chris Carter hopes the new format will put more emphasis on the innovators demonstrating their ideas.

Business Briefs

HAMILTON COUNTY — The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering improperly charged Hamilton Downs with violating its license. The court says the small rural racetrack meets the minimum requirements for its permit to hold quarter-horse races.

JACKSONVILLE — Houston- based Westmont Hospitality bought Jacksonville’s largest hotel, the 951-room Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, for $110 million. That’s more than twice what Fortress Investment Group paid to buy the downtown hotel at a foreclosure auction in 2014. The value of the Jacksonville Jaguars has grown from $770 million when Shad Khan bought the team in 2012 to nearly $2.1 billion, with operating earnings tripling to $89 million, according to Forbes magazine estimates. The number of job cuts at CSX this year reached 2,700 through August, says CFO Frank Lonegro. In addition, the railroad cut 1,000 contractors and consultants. Short-line railroad operator Patriot Rail and maritime logistics company Diversified Port Holdings merged. The privately owned companies say the merger will enable the new entity to bundle services for customers. Terms of the deal were not announced. Trucking company Landstar opened a facility in Mexico City to expand its freight and logistics services.

NASSAU COUNTY — UF Health says it is build- ing health and fitness facilities in Wildlight, the new mixed-use community that developer Rayonier is marketing as a “healthy” community.

OCALA — Griffon Corp. bought ClosetMaid from Emerson for $260 million. The maker of home storage products will add $300 million in annual revenue to Griffon’s home and building products business. Griffon says ClosetMaid will remain headquartered in Ocala.

ST. AUGUSTINE — The SEC sued Creative Learning and former CEO Brian Pappas, alleging securities laws violations.

Innovation: Healthy Approach

Credit card hacks get all the headlines, but Ben Finke thinks people should be more worried about medical record theft. “Medical records are easily the most lucrative type of record a hacker can steal,” Finke says. “There’s so much information.”

Finke, with Jeff Foltz, cofounded a Jacksonville cybersecurity firm last year called OnDefend. The company’s clients include a large number of health care institutions along with other businesses.

When OnDefend can successfully breach a client’s system, it will show the customer step by step how it was done and how it can be prevented.

“Our approach is to make your business safer, not just tell you what’s wrong,” says Finke.


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