DAVIE (CBSMiami) – Four years in the making, the reversible toll lanes on I-595 open Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s opening today? That’s awesome. It’s gonna save a lot of time. Why not, I’ll use it for sure,” Giuliani Cote said.
The lanes opened to westbound traffic at 2 p.m. On Thursday, the lanes will be open eastbound from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then westbound from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. On weekends the lanes will only be open in the eastbound direction.
But that’s not the only change that has happened to the popular east-west corridor.
“We’ve rebuilt the whole corridor,” said Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Lampley. “Ten and half miles on I-595 including State Road 84 and two and half miles on the Florida Turnpike.”
In all, there are 62 new bridges, a simpler interchange with the Turnpike, new ramps keeping entering and exiting traffic from mixing, three reversible toll lanes in the middle and up to 5 regular lanes in each direction.
Here’s how those toll lanes work. They stretch from just west of I-95 to just east of I-75 with one exit at the Florida Turnpike. In the morning, they will be open to eastbound traffic with a 70 mile per hour speed limit. Drivers could make the 10 mile commute in 8 to 9 minutes.
At 1 p.m., gates will close off the whole thing – so the area can be cleared out – getting ready to reverse traffic flow. So just how strong are those gates?
“They are able to stop light trucks, they are also able to stop any passenger vehicle. We’ve also had incidents in Tampa where it was hit by a tractor trailer truck and it actually stopped a tractor trailer truck,” said Lampley.
“I hope it works, I hope it does. I hope there’s no issues,” said Denise Flanigan.
The toll lanes will open at 2 p.m. for westbound traffic only. They will remain open until 2 a.m.
On weekends the lanes will only be open in the eastbound direction.
For the first week, there will be no tolls, so crews can test the equipment in real-time and drivers can try them out without having to make a decision as to whether they want to pay.
After the free week, drivers who wish to use them will have to have a SunPass transponder to pay the toll or else they will be sent a bill in the mail. The cost to use them should be anywhere between 50 cents and two dollars.
“I hope it works out. It’s really been a nasty road for quite a while. If it does what they’re intending it to do, it ought to be really good,” said Rick Day.
The official grand opening and ribbon cutting for the new toll lanes is scheduled for Friday. Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to attend the event.
The $1.2 billion mega project was financed and built by a private company. Once the toll lanes open, the state will begin a 30 year re-payment plan. Had this been a state “pay as you go” plan, this whole thing would have been broken down into 12 separate projects that would have taken more than 15 years to finish.