Jacksonville FL Outer Beltway moving forward with tolls - first 15 miles starting construction

August 28, 2012

2012-08-27: The $1.9 billion First Coast Outer Beltway project in the southwestern part of the Jacksonville metro area is moving into construction. Following a unanimous vote supporting construction "as a toll facility" by the local Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Florida DOT announced it was moving ahead with construction  of the first 15 mile segment known variously as Branan Field Chafee Road (BFCR) or Express (BFCX) or Toll 23.

The BFCX goes pretty much due south from I-10 in Duval County 13 miles due west of  downtown Jacksonville 15 miles to Blanding Boulevard SR21. A second larger phase of 31 miles will take the Beltway a bit further south then generally east across the St John River to I-95 about 22 miles south of Jacksonville. This segment is being called the St Johns River Crossing (SJRC.) 

map of full project at the bottom

When complete there will be 46 miles of toll expressway.

FDOT has traffic and revenue studies showing 2020 tolls as projected at a low of $42m and a high of $99m/year for the complete 46 miles and the I-10/I-95 linkage.

2025 tolls are projected at a low of $67m and a high of $191m. (see table nearby)

Only $400m total cost for first 15 miles, $1530m for second of 31 miles

The initial BCFX portion is relatively inexpensive at an estimated $400m for 15 miles of 2x2 lanes expressway. That's because it involves no new right of way and in part takes an existing divided surface arterial already 2x2 lanes and part 2-lanes. With these already constructed it builds eight interchanges or grade separation bridges and where 2-lanes adds another 2-lane roadway to convert it to an expressway standard highway, then tolls it.  

One segment will have Texas style frontage roads that are untolled. Another short segment from I-10 southbound to the first near interchange won't be tolled.

But the rest will be tolled.

FDOT says: "State Road 23 is already four-laned from Interstate 10 to New World Avenue and from 103rd Street (SR134) to Argyle Forest Boulevard. These sections will be resurfaced and will tie in with the newly constructed roadway. Once finished, the entire stretch of roadway from Interstate 10 to Blanding Boulevard (SR21) will be a four lane, limited access expressway."

Tolls accepted on existing pavement

Gaining public and political acceptance of tolls on existing pavement is major progress for tolling. MAP21 the new interim federal aid law allows tolls on new capacity, often taken to mean additional lanes - pavement.

Perhaps FDOT will argue that the interchanges being built add to the capacity of the surface arterial roadway.

They will certainly allow higher hourly flows - perhaps 2,000 vehicles/lane/hour versus about half that with signals.

Without tolls won't happen "for decades"

The Jacksonville area regional planning organization (NFTPO) resolution of August 23 has seven Whereas's the last of which reads: "Whereas if we depend on the availability of federal and/or state funds alone for the construction of this much needed facility, it will not be constructed for decades."

There follows:

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization continues to support construction of the First Coast Outer Beltway as a toll facility and encourages the Florida Department of Transportation to move forward with the construction of the Branan Field-Chaffee Road segment as soon as possible."

This puts an end to about a decade of studies and local discussion of alternatives and allows FDOT to contract the BFCX construction. FDOT has the funds available and plans to recover them in tolls.

The 31 mile St John River Crossing portion of the project is planned as a toll concession under the state's public private partnership (P3) program. It's quite expensive at an estimated $1,530m total cost of which $900m is construction plus about $425m for right of way (see South and Middle segments in table.)

After years of alternatives analysis and argument they have a locally preferred route.

Toll rates being discussed on the first segment BFCX are 15c/mile (CORRECTION) but will probably have to be  higher in the river crossing segment with all new construction, right of way and the bridge.

In its initial build the road will be 2x2 lanes, except that the bridge will be built 2x3 lanes.

Toll collection will be the new standard all-electronic combining a transponder account (Sunpass) and license plate camera imaging - no on-road cash collected.

BACKGROUND: The Jacksonville metro area population in 2010 was estimated at 1.34 million, an increase of nearly 20% on the 2000's 1.12m and 45% higher than 1990's 925k population.

Jacksonville is the 4th metro area in Florida after Miami 5.56m (growth 37% in 20 years), Tampa 2.78m (growth 35%) and Orlando 2.13m (74%).

see project website


TOLLROADSnews 2012-08-27

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