The Florida Department of Transportation on Wednesday announced $300 million in funding for three regional road projects, including upgrades to the Interstate 95/I-295 north interchange.
James Bennett, Florida Department of Transportation District Urban Transportation Development manager, made the announcement during a Society for Marketing Professionals annual E-Week Transportation Summit at the University of North Florida's Herbert University Center.
"The governor's focus has been and continues to be on creating jobs. We have been focusing quite a bit on transportation improvements for the region," said Bennett.
The announcement comes a day after Gov. Rick Scott announced $78 million to improve the safety and mobility on Interstate 95 and Butler Boulevard.
The I-95/I-295 north interchange will receive more than $145 million to replace the left-hand exits with flyover ramps that will allow for higher speeds and better capacity.
The improvement also allows for future expansion of I-95 and I-295 by providing a horizontal window for future widening. The left-hand exits prevent I-295 from being widened with the existing interchange.
The project start date is anticipated for summer 2016 and also is intended to improve access to the Jacksonville Port Authority facilities.
The project was not in the department's five-year work plan and now is in the fiscal 2016 plan for construction.
Another portion of the $300 million will be allocated to an I-10/State Road 23/U.S. 90 interchange.
More than $51.3 million will be allocated to extend State Road 23 north from I-10 to U.S. 90 to provide access to I-10 and State Road 23 from the business, distribution centers, and residential areas along U.S. 90.
Construction of the interchange will reduce congestion through Baldwin by using U.S. 301 to access I-10 and at the I-10/Chaffee Road interchange. It also will provide better access to Cecil Commerce Center.
The project is anticipated to begin in summer 2015.
"That allows the distribution centers along U.S. 90, such as BJ's Wholesale Club, Publix Super Markets, Winn-Dixie Stores, not only to have access to I-10, but also U.S. 301 onto Cecil Commerce Center into Clay County, creating that regional connectivity," said Bennett.
The third project announced for the region was a U.S. 301 Starke bypass in Bradford County. More than $90 million is allocated for the project, which is now programmed in the department's fiscal 2016 construction plan.
Bennett said the project will be a 7.3 mile limited access four-lane bypass that will provide an alternate route for trucks and freight traveling in the region.
Also discussed at the summit was the mission of the Northeast Florida Regional Transportation Business Alliance, an initiative by the JAXUSA Partnership.
The alliance will serve as the recognized regional private sector voice for transportation initiatives and policy in Northeast Florida. Moody Chisholm, president and CEO of St. Vincent's Healthcare, is its chairman.
Chisholm explained that the St. Vincent's system includes hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices and care facilities that need to be accessible by roadways. It also has a fleet of ambulances that depend on roads not being congested so they can deliver patients to the care centers as quickly as possible.
The system also employs thousands of employees who use private and public transportation to travel to and from work.
"If we can identify the right projects and help people understand why they will make a positive difference in our community and in our region we can make a real impact for generations to come with the ability to get around this area," said Chisholm.