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The End of the Road

What To Expect From Broward's Upcoming I-95 Express Lanes

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Images from FDOT.
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South Florida drivers will need to relearn the ins-and-outs of the I-95 express lanes. Specifically where to get in and where to get out.

“Phase 2” of 95 Express will extend the so-called “Lexus Lanes” to Broward Boulevard. Weather permitting, the expansion is scheduled to open this spring. Those plastic divider poles could start popping up this month.

With the expanded lanes will come a whole new set of entrance and exit options as well as some tweaks to existing ingress and egress points. To prepare for the change, read our interview below with Tish Burgher, spokeswoman for 95 Express Phase 2.

Where will these new lanes go? And where will people be able to get in and out of them?

The express lanes now down in Miami-Dade County end just north of the flyover at Golden Glades Interchange. We’re extending them up to just south of Broward Boulevard. And what’s going to happen is there’s going to be a new entrance location there, just north of the Golden Glades Interchange. The exit will be moved up to an area between Miami Gardens Drive and Ives Dairy Road. So where people are actually getting off the express lanes now is going to be moved northward.

Then there will be another entrance just south of Hallandale Beach Boulevard. So if you’re coming into 95 from Ives Dairy Road. you’ll be able to get into the express lanes. The express lanes will continue north and you will have an exit just north of Sterling Road. So drivers in the express lanes will be able to exit to Griffin Road. and [Interstate] 595. And one lane will continue along northbound until just south of Broward Boulevard.

Look at the map of the new lanes below.

Right now there’s a $10.50 cap on the Phase 1 -- the existing stretch -- of the express lanes. Will there also be a cap on how high tolls can go in the Phase 2 portion?

No. There is no cap in Phase 2. But we do have an average price of $2.50 [southbound], $2.90 [northbound] during peak times in both directions in Phase 1. So we know it’s not always the highest that it can be. And the price is actually determined by demand. So dynamic pricing is based on the number of vehicles that are actually using the lanes. So the more vehicles that are in the lanes, the higher the price is going to be.

But in theory, the tolls on the second stretch of 95 express lanes could get as high as the demand requires it to -- so above the $10.50 mark. Just no ceiling to that?

They will be priced on demand, yes. ... But you have to remember that the average price is $2.50 or $2.90 in the northbound direction.

People have asked me on numerous occasions: When they take these express lanes, when they pay these tolls, where does that money go? And in large part the answer is that money goes to the operation of the express lanes and to the expansion of the express lanes.

As of September, 95 Express has brought in $88 million in revenue. And the estimated cost of this Phase 2 portion is $112 million. So once this new section is paid for and it’s up and running, where will that money go?

Money from the express lanes stays within the county that it’s generated.

EDITOR'S NOTE: That answer was all the information Tish Burgher had on this topic at the time of the interview. But she did follow up by email with some more information. The law regulating the express lanes says explicitly that once the express lanes are built and paid for, revenue will go to maintaining and running those lanes. Any leftover money can go to other state road projects or to help operate express bus services in the express lanes. See below the language forwarded to WLRN by Burgher.

338.166, F.S. (2) The department may continue to collect the toll on the high-occupancy toll lanes or express lanes after the discharge of any bond indebtedness related to such project. All tolls so collected shall first be used to pay the annual cost of the operation, maintenance, and improvement of the high-occupancy toll lanes or express lanes project or associated transportation system. (3) Any remaining toll revenue from the high-occupancy toll lanes or express lanes shall be used by the department for the construction, maintenance, or improvement of any road on the State Highway System within the county or counties in which the toll revenues were collected or to support express bus service on the facility where the toll revenues were collected.

Earlier this year, we reported on the “closed” signs on the Phase 1 portion. They tell drivers that the lanes are closed using yellow letters on a black background which, it turned out, means that [FHP] troopers can’t actually pull people over for going in the lanes when they’re closed because technically closed signs need to be in black and white. Will Phase 2 signs be the correct colors? And if not, why not?

Well, what we’re doing in Phase 2 is that we’re going to put up signs that are the same as Phase 1 for consistency. However, at a future time -- hasn’t been exactly determined when yet -- all of the signs in Phase 1 and Phase 2 will be retrofitted so they are regulatory signs. So there can be enforcement.

Why is consistency an important thing to take into account when it comes to the coloring of the signs? [You] could in theory, install the new ones now and maybe save some money early on instead of having to retrofit them, right?

Well, I think a lot of people don’t really understand that Phase 1 and Phase 2 were conceived at the same time. So a lot of the decisions that were made at that initial planning are being implemented in Phase 2. And it makes more sense for drivers to see signs that are similar along the facility. They get very, very confused when something changes.

Even the sign color?

Even the sign color.

Some of the other reporting we’ve done earlier this year was about the hybrid vehicle exemption disappearing in the future, in September 2017 at the latest. That was not going to be a part of any of the other express lane projects: 595 Express, there is no hybrid exemption. 75 Express, there won’t be a hybrid exemption. Will Phase 2 have that exemption when it opens? Will hybrids still be allowed to ride for free like they currently are in Phase 1?

Yes. When Phase 2 opens, all of the exemptions that exist in Phase 1 will also be existing in Phase 2.

And the hybrid is the most popular [exemption], but there’s also a motorcycle exemption, a bus exemption. All of those exemptions will be in place?

Yes. That’s correct.