After five years of construction, the overhaul of Interstate 595 in Broward is nearing its end with the opening of reversible express lanes the last week of March.
The express lanes, which will charge a toll electronically, are in the median of the east-west expressway that links the western suburbs of central Broward with the urban centers around Fort Lauderdale along the east coast of South Florida.
The opening of the express lanes, running from Interstate 75 and the Sawgrass Expressway east to Florida’s Turnpike and U.S. 441, marks the end of construction for the project’s centerpiece — the chief reason why the road was rebuilt.
During the morning peak, traffic will run eastward on the reversible lanes. The flow will be reversed for the afternoon rush that brings traffic from east to west. On weekends, lanes will be open for eastbound traffic. The goal is to reduce congestion overall on the busy expressway by drawing drivers from the general-purpose lanes to the express lanes in exchange for a variable toll.
“We anticipate a dramatic improvement in travel times for both users of the express lanes, as well as those using the general-purpose, non-tolled, lanes,” said Paul Lampley, the I-595 construction project manager for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
The toll will be based on the level of congestion in the express lanes themselves. The more vehicles in the express lanes, the higher the toll.
Generally, tolls will range from as low as 50 cents to as high as $2, depending on congestion, Lampley said. SunPass is required.
Lampley said that project engineers are now testing the express lanes and have yet to decide whether to start charging tolls once the facility opens or to allow drivers to use them for free for a while.
To speed traffic, the reversible lanes have exit and entry points only at the junction with I-75 and the Sawgrass on the west and at the turnpike and just past 441 on the east. Hours of operation will be eastbound from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and westbound 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays.
Once open, the reversible lanes will be added to the growing network of express lanes in South Florida.
The first network segment is already operating in Miami-Dade County from the Golden Glades interchange to State Road 112, just north of downtown Miami. A second segment from the Golden Glades to Broward Boulevard is now being built. Also, construction is to begin soon on express lanes on the Palmetto Expressway and I-75.
Besides the new reversible lanes, other key features of the reconstructed I-595 include:
• A fire-suppression system on the express lanes and special access gates for emergency vehicles.
• A new I-595-turnpike interchange to eliminate traffic weaving.
• New auxiliary lanes, braided ramps and bypass bridges between 595 and State Road 84, which runs parallel to the expressway.
• Thirteen new sound-barrier walls.
• Express bus service serving downtown Fort Lauderdale and downtown Miami.
While the entire cost of the project is $1.8 billion, Lampley said that $1.2 billion covered design and construction. The balance covers the operation and maintenance of the corridor for 35 years, Lampley said.
The project is a public-private partnership involving FDOT and the concessionaire known as I-595 Express LLC.
The parent company is the Spanish multinational Actividades de Construcción y Servicios S.A. (ACS) Infrastructure Development of Madrid.
I-595 Express has selected the American firm Jorgensen Contract Services LLC to operate and maintain the corridor for the next 10 years, Lampley said.
Construction of the entire project is expected to end by late June, Lampley said.