Florida’s Turnpike is getting wider in some places — but in an unprecedented movedrivers will pay more to access the new lanes.
Yes, express lanes are planned for two stretches of Florida’s Turnpike in Palm Beach County, which means an additional fee to use them. With the new lanes, Florida will be the first state in the U.S. to enact an additional toll on top of an existing one.
As drivers approach the entrance for the express lanes, they will be given the option either to enter those lanes or stay in the so-called “general use” lanes.
Express lane tolling is dynamic, meaning the price gets lower when traffic in the express lanes is light, and higher when congestion is worse.
The turnpike express lane tolls will start at 25 cents above the regular toll price, said Chad Huff, turnpike spokesman.
“There will be approach signs to alert drivers of the express lane price,” Huff said via email. “They will make a choice of which lane to use — the general toll lane or the express lane — and pay only that toll.”
In areas like South Florida, where there is more density and more traffic, people tend to use the turnpike as a local road. The express lanes will let motorists making longer drives bypass that local traffic, Huff said.
“These lanes offer a more reliable trip,” he added. “With a convention widening, as congestion increases, especially during peak periods, the choice for the driver to bypass heavy traffic is eliminated.”
Drivers on Interstate 95 in South Florida are already familiar with dynamic tolling and express lanes, which are in place from Miami-Dade through central Broward County, with plans to extend them north to Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach.
A study is underway to determine the suitability of possibly going even farther, up to Indiantown Road in Jupiter. It’s part of a larger effort by the Florida Department of Transportation to ease congestion throughout the state by adding express lanes to several heavily traveled highways.
More than $1 billion has been budgeted to pay for work along Florida’s Turnpike and the Sawgrass Expressway from 2018-2022, a number that includes express lane work on the turnpike in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The work will be divided into two phases in Palm Beach County, with the stretch of turnpike from Glades Road to Atlantic Avenue growing from six lanes to 10, and from north of Boynton Beach Boulevard to the West Palm Beach service plaza growing from four lanes to eight.
The northern piece, from Boynton to West Palm, would be completed first, with construction budgeted for 2018 and 2019. Construction for the section from Glades to Atlantic is budgeted for 2022.
The project is included in FDOT District Four’s draft five-year work program, a planned budget on how the state aims to spend transportation dollars.
Huff said the turnpike conducted focus groups and surveys of both cash and SunPass customers in urban areas and found that two-thirds of people who participated were in favor of a solution that would allow them to bypass congestion.
But anti-toll advocates say express lanes don’t allow people to bypass congestion. Instead, express lanes make congestion worse by funneling some people into new lanes while not solving existing issues, said Chris Wills with the group No More Tolls, which is petitioning the state to have drivers vote to approve or deny all new tolls or toll increases.
“It’s basically turning our highway from Lexus lanes into Lamborghini lanes without solving our problems along the way,” Wills said.
From traffic troubles to transportation trends, Kristina Webb will help you get around, whether you’re on a highway, roadway or runway. Find her reports in The Palm Beach Post. Send your tips and traffic woes to her at firstname.lastname@example.org