Tens of thousands of flexible white poles that dot and divide the sidewalk on Interstate 95 make the slow march north into Palm Beach County, signaling the long-awaited arrival of expressways.
Drivers heading north on I-95 from Broward County can now take a simplified nearly nine mile path between Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach and Glades Road in Boca Raton, which is especially useful for drivers long distance or those who wish to avoid traffic. jams.
And in the next few days, weather permitting, crews will begin digging the south side expressways at Glades Road. Florida Department of Transportation officials say the work, which is six months ahead of schedule, should be completed by the summer.
While the cost of driving on I-95 express lanes is at least 50 cents for the shortest route – the overall price charged to a driver’s SunPass account may change depending on the amount of traffic, distance traveled and time of day – this The northern section of the expressways is currently free.
No decision has been made on when tolls will begin on this segment, an FDOT spokesperson said.
Drivers should be prepared to forgo the express lanes if they must exit the freeway before SW 10th Street at Deerfield Beach or Glades Road, as there are currently no designated exits on the express lanes in between. It is prohibited to enter and exit plastic poles where there is no designated entry or exit.
When completed, this work will be the second of five segments of the state’s $ 1.01 billion State Department of Transportation’s 95 Express Phase 3 project in the two counties. A segment, between Commercial Boulevard and SW 10th Street, was completed in 2019.
The third segment, scheduled for spring 2022, will add expressways between Commercial and Broward boulevards. Teams are expected to complete the expansion of expressways north to Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach and reconfigure Glades Road on I-95 to a Divergent Diamond Interchange in 2023.
A diverging diamond interchange is a traffic management system in which drivers are temporarily guided to the opposite side of the road to make it easier to enter and exit the freeway. The first in Florida was built around Interstate 75 in Sarasota.
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Finally, by spring 2025, existing expressways lined with worn orange poles, starting southbound at Sheridan Street and ending northbound at Stirling Road, will be connected to the new expressways, in addition to a link with I-595.
Expanding the express lanes on I-95 involves adding an additional lane in both directions and converting the HOV lanes to a managed toll lane, so there are two toll lanes and three “general purpose” lanes.
HOV lanes “seemed like a failed psychology experiment,” said Nick Uhren, executive director of the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency. Officials hoped that by providing a designated lane for cars that had passengers, it would be enough for a driver to “give up personal autonomy and ride with someone.”
“The idea being that if we could convince enough people to ride together, we would reduce the number of people driving on the freeway and provide a better overall experience,” he said.
Drivers of hybrid vehicles were encouraged to purchase a sticker that would also allow them to travel in HOV lanes.
Expressways in Palm Beach County are not expected to end at Linton Boulevard, Uhren said. In its long-term plan, the Palm Beach TPA has three planned projects that would add expressways to at least Blue Heron Boulevard in Riviera Beach. However, construction is not planned until 2036 at the earliest.
These toll roads serve a traffic management purpose, and not just for those who use them, Uhren said.
“It’s not just a first-class experience that guarantees you a quality trip while other people are in pain. These pathways have benefited everyone, ”Uhren said.
Removing drivers who travel longer distances from general use lanes “makes the interaction less complex” for those entering and exiting the freeway more frequently, he added.
It also offers “a more reliable journey time” for all drivers, Uhren said.
While FDOT officials have said there are no plans to expand the 95 Express bus service to Palm Beach County, Uhren said he believes these managed toll lanes could in the future. be used for self-driving cars.
While this will mean more construction for anyone crossing Boca Raton and Delray Beach, especially a segment of I-95 that has fewer lanes than the others, Uhren said he hoped it would result in a “significant advantage. for the people of South Palm. Beach County.