Those I-95 express lanes that run across South Florida will be running even farther north to ease our commute times: In the coming years, drivers will be getting an extra 37 miles of toll lanes from Palm Beach County all the way to the Martin County line.
The construction effort to add these express lanes could mean significant traffic headaches for drivers. But once these these new express lanes are completed, the hope is they’ll help alleviate our nightmarish congestion in South Florida.
So far, the transportation department has begun construction to extend the express lanes from Deerfield Beach to Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach as part of a separate project. That 6-mile stretch is projected to be finished by the end of 2023.
Adding express lanes from Linton Boulevard to the Martin County line still is in the planning stages, so it likely will take several years before construction were to start. It’ll be a lengthy construction process for a project that could cost over $2 billion, according to documents.
Nick Uhren, executive director of the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, has been encouraged by what he’s seen from the express lanes. Referring to it as an “interstate within an interstate,” he said the added lanes have helped provide a more reliable and predictable travel experience.
“That’s what we’re hoping to produce is that predictable travel time and stable travel experience whether you’re in the general purpose lanes or the managed lanes,” Uhren said. “We want you to know how long it’s going to take you when you get onto I-95. And we want that time frame to be a reasonable one.”
The I-95 express lanes first made their appearance in Miami-Dade, with construction beginning back in 2008. Since then, the lanes have creeped farther north through Broward County up to Deerfield Beach.
Separated by tubular dividers — which are orange in some parts, but white in other sections — the express lanes were built as an attempt to create a more steady flow of traffic throughout the day.
Drivers use a SunPass transponder to pay for the lanes, which range from 50 cents to an estimated $10.50, depending on the time of day, the amount of traffic and distance traveled in the express lanes.
To create the I-95 express lanes in Palm Beach County, crews will add an additional lane and convert the HOV lane in both directions.
Southern Palm Beach County will likely see a significant boost once construction is complete of the first segment of lanes.
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During Palm Beach County’s last major highway expansion in the early 2000s, I-95 expanded to five lanes in each direction for most of the county. The exception was from Boca Raton to Boynton Beach, which has only four lanes. That lane shortage has created a major bottleneck during rush hour, with traffic significantly lessening once you drive past Boynton Beach.
Uhren said the express lanes should make it a “much better experience for the people who travel that on a regular basis.”
Any upcoming traffic tie-ups due to construction will be on top of the numerous current and future I-95 projects already planned for Palm Beach County. Those improvements already are expected to disrupt traffic.
Southern Palm Beach County will see significant work over the next decade. The transportation department plans to overhaul five interchanges in a 12-mile stretch from Boynton Beach to Lake Worth: Woolbright Road, Boynton Beach Boulevard, Gateway Boulevlard, Lantana Road and 10th Avenue North.
A weaving, diamond-shaped pattern, the interchange briefly sends drivers onto the opposite side of the road to allow for safer and easier left-hand turns to and from I-95. Construction is projected to be completed by the end of 2023.