FDOT rolls out study for I-95 improvements from I-10 to Beaver Street

An excerpt from the Project Handout of Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) PD&E study for the proposed improved to I-95 from I-10 to Beaver Street. Courtesy of FDOT.
An excerpt from the Project Handout of Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) PD&E study for the proposed improved to I-95 from I-10 to Beaver Street. Courtesy of FDOT.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) hosted a pair of public meetings last month to present a study featuring proposed improvements to I-95 from I-10 to Beaver Street.

The Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study presented “options to improve safety, capacity, and traffic operations on I-95” including adding two 12-foot lanes in each direction of the interstate and deck replacement and rehabilitation of the Myrtle Avenue Bridge. Additional options include “intersection and roadway improvements at Church Street, Beaver Street, and West Union Street [and] potential changes in access to and from I-95 ramp terminal.”

According to the PD&E study, 1999 was the last time I-95 was widened and “no major capacity improvements have taken place in over 20 years.”

The PD&E phase of the project allows for public feedback and community input on the proposed changes, creating an opportunity for discourse between residents and the FDOT, explained FDOT Community Outreach Manager Hampton Ray.

“We make adjustments in some cases and eventually we move forward with the project or, based on feedback, we may not move forward with the project,” he said. “…These projects, we plan them years in advance. Our design year right now is around 2045. So we are designing for the future. We’re really looking for infrastructure that is going to be resilient for years to come.”

As far as where construction will actually begin on this corridor of the I-95, Ray said, the FDOT is aware of the heavy flow of goods and services passing through that stretch of the interstate.

“We’ll definitely be having those conversations with the contractor as part of the contract to make sure we protect the industries that are there in the Rail Yard [District],” he added.

Jeff Edwards, immediate past president of the Rail Yard District Business Council said the council has maintained a working relationship with FDOT for more than three years, “providing input from the perspective of the Rail Yard District about the improvements and changes being suggested for I-95.”

“The Rail Yard District is supplied from those interstates by six exits or interchanges and it’s critical to the Rail Yard District as an economic development tool to maintain good access from both I-10 and I-95,” he added. “The Rail Yard District Business Council is very interested in how the exits and I-95 function, in this particular case, in terms of maintaining that value.”

Public discourse and input on these types of projects is important, Edwards said, because “the interstates are the arteries of Jacksonville and they feed all the neighborhoods and beyond. That access to the interstates is critical to the economic welfare to the city and the areas closest to the interstate especially.”

The period to submit public comments ended on Aug. 19.

Construction for this project is not expected to begin until 2026 — barring any unforeseen circumstances — at an estimated cost of $170 million. Right-of-way procurement — the FDOT process of purchasing any necessary real estate from private citizens “to accommodate for the additional capacity on the roadway,” Ray explained —  is scheduled to begin in 2024, based on community feedback, and $1.3 million has been budgeted for that phase of the project.

When planning these projects and improvements, FDOT takes its cues from local entities.

“We don’t want decisions being made by people who do not drive those roads regularly,” Ray added.

In this case, that entity is the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), “the independent regional transportation planning agency for Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties” based in Jacksonville.

“They [North Florida TPO] look 50 years ahead and they instruct FDOT where to use transportation dollars,” Ray explained. “These decisions aren’t being made out in Tallahassee, for instance. They’re being made here at the local level in Jacksonville for Jacksonville residents by Jacksonville leaders and policymakers. That was really the purpose of the meeting we had last week is to really engage with the community and maybe make some changes.”

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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