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Navigating I-595 a challenge as construction work progresses

Commuters on Interstate 595 already contending with rush hour traffic and drivers who merge carelessly into their lanes now have even more challenges to navigate: Permanent ramp shutdowns, the reduction of lanes and construction of reversible roads.

“In general, it’s just making it hell,” said Nadia Draizin, who takes I-595 to take her daughter to school every morning. “You never know what’s going to happen as far as traffic is concerned. It’s very unpredictable.”

Just last week, the ramp onto the highway from westbound State Road 84 permanently closed. More closures will begin in July as crews lift the University Drive eastbound flyover ramp from its foundation so it can eventually be extended to connect with new eastbound lanes.

In addition to that, westbound I-595 has been reduced to three lanes from State Road 7 to the Florida’s Turnpike.

All this work is part of the I-595 Express Corridor Improvements Project, which includes the reconstruction of the Turnpike Interchange, the eventual addition of more lanes and ramps, and a new reversible express lanes system.

The project, budgeted for $1.8 billion, runs from the Interstate 75/Sawgrass Expressway east to Interstate 95. It is expected to be completed by the first half of 2014.

The improvements will result in “a very noticeable decrease in congestion,” said Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Leila Haddad.

“The project is to accommodate the traffic levels for 20 years after it’s completed,” said Haddad.

Currently, more than 180,000 vehicles drive I-595 daily, but that number is expected to go up 1 percent to 2 percent each year.

But before the improvements, comes the chaos of the construction.

Earlier this week, the ramp from S.R. Road 84 westbound onto the highway permanently closed.

From now on, motorists driving westbound on S.R. 84 will have to pass Davie Road before they’ll get to a ramp leading them onto I-595.

However, getting off at Davie Road is easier than ever.

FDOT has already put in a new ramp allowing turnpike drivers to access Davie Road via S.R. 84 without merging onto I-595.

Another chage: Starting later this week, cars driving westbound on I-595 will have to veer to the right at the turnpike interchange and then back to the left before reaching Davie Road, while crews finish up work on bridges in the vicinity.

And coming up in mid-July: the flyover from University Drive to eastbound I-595 will be closed as crews raise it from its foundation and replace the interior piers of the ramp. The new flyover will be extended to connect to new eastbound I-595 lanes.

“The lifting of the bridge is only a 24-hour operation,” said Paul Lampley, project manager for FDOT.

Nevertheless, the flyover ramp from southbound University to eastbound I-595 will be closed for four months.

Once that project is completed, likely by Thanksgiving, the flyover from northbound University to westbound I-595 will close for several weeks.

Down the road, crews will begin working on the construction of reversible express toll lanes between the Sawgrass Expressway and Florida’s Turnpike.

Once they’re in place, the lanes will run east during the morning rush hour and west during the evening rush hour.

“There’s a whole system of gates and signs that prohibit vehicles from entering,” said Haddad.

In addition to the work on the roads, FDOT will also making improvements to the Greenways system running parallel to I-595.

Greenways — which will include pedestrian and bicycle paths — will eventually connect neighborhoods to parks, recreation facilities and schools.

For the most part, commuters and business owners in the area have been understanding of the overall construction.

“I think it’s going to be a huge benefit for us in the future,’’ said Dwayne Adams, who works at Alex’s Bicycle Pro Shop just off I-595 at Hiatus Road.

While the ongoing construction has hampered customers getting to the shop, Adams said, “In the end, it’s going to be a great thing.’’