Broward County

I-595 express lanes to open Wednesday

After four years of construction, the newly built reversible express lanes of Interstate 595 in Broward are finally slated to open at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“They are putting up final signs for express lanes and pavement markings,” Barbara Kelleher, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation, said Tuesday.

Tolls will not be charged for using the express lanes during the first two weeks, FDOT said. After that, tolls will rise during peak travel times, ranging from 50 cents to $2 for passenger vehicles and small trucks, depending on how thick the traffic is.

Broward drivers have plowed through the nightmare of I-595 reconstruction since 2010. Drivers faced ramp closures, exit changes and coped with new signs regularly popping up along Broward County’s main east-west thoroughfare. Now that the $1.2 billion project is nearly done, the next phase for drivers involves sorting out how to use the express lanes. The entire project might not be fully complete until the summer.

Traffic in the three express lanes will flow east in the mornings and west in the afternoon and evening hours. Wednesday afternoon’s opening will be for westbound traffic.

Once the tolls kick in, all drivers will be charged. Their vehicles must have a SunPass transponder and an associated prepaid account. No cash is accepted.

The reversible lanes will typically be open on weekdays to eastbound traffic between 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. and to westbound drivers between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. From 4 a.m. Saturday to 1 p.m. Monday, the lanes will be eastbound-only.

The Express Lanes are 7.5 to 9.5 miles long, depending on where drivers enter and exit. They are separated from local traffic by concrete barriers, and are intended for drivers traveling between the Interstate 75/Sawgrass Expressway interchange in the west and Florida’s Turnpike or Interstate 95 to the east.

The project included reconstruction of the expressway and improvements to frontage roads and ramps.

Interstate 595 opened in 1989. Three years later, Hurricane Andrew prompted many Miami-Dade residents to head north to Broward, and the population explosion in West Broward quickly clogged the interstate.

While the reversible lanes will help commuters traveling across the county, some businesses will warn drivers away from the interstate so they don’t get stuck in express lanes and miss the chance to exit.

“We always get a lot of complaints about 595,” said Angela Roth, a manager at Bob Roth’s New River Groves, which sells fruit and pies in Davie close to I-595.

“We don’t put anyone on there when they call for directions,” she said.

But, said David Tesseo, director of operations at the Young at Art Museum off Flamingo Road in Davie, the newly reconstructed 595 and express lanes will improve traffic flow.

“It will relieve the pressures of local traffic mixing with high-speed folks going either all the way west or all the way east,” he said.