The first of several construction projects encountered yesterday involves widening of Interstate 75 through Lee County, Florida, including the 1.6-mile project to expand the Caloosahatchee River. The $72-million project kicked off here in January 2013 and runs through fall of 2015. Construction is part of the final phase to expand all 33 miles of I-75 through Lee County to six lanes.1
Ten miles or so further south is the $54.1-million project to construct a new trumpet interchange joining Interstate 75 with Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) directly. The I-75 -> Airport Direct Connect project commenced in fall 2012. Work includes the addition of a collector/distributor roadway along both sides of the freeway, tying in ramps for the Terminal Access Road extension with the adjacent Alico Road ramps.2
Also included in the work slated to run until spring 2015 is an overpass for the Airport Access Road above parallel Treeline Avenue / Ben Hill Griffin Parkway. A half-diamond interchange will provide local access to the airport from the surface arterial.2
A semi truck carrying a load of new cars caught fire, resulting in the closure of Interstate 75 southbound just after Florida 29 (Exit 80) during the late morning hours. Thus we detoured along a series of Collier and Hendry County Roads to the north. This scene looks at Collier County 858 (Oil Well Road), where the road expands from two to four lanes ahead of the new Ave Maria community. Established in 2007, Ava Maria resides in a remote area of eastern Collier County, 40 miles away from Naples. Ambitious plans for the development boast a total of 11,000 homes on nearly 4,000 acres, with the community anchored by a large Roman Catholic church. As of 2013, 500 or so homes have been constructed.3
Widening of CR 858 (Oil Well Road) in the Ave Maria vicinity commenced in 2010 in a two-phase project. The first phase expanded the road to four lanes from Immokalee Road (CR 846) to three miles west of Everglades Boulevard and six lanes between Oil Well Grade Road to east of Ave Maria Boulevard. The second phase started in December 2011 and focused on the roadway between the two aforementioned stretches. It involved widening the two travel lanes by two feet and adding paved shoulders. Work ran through summer of 2012 and cost $39-million.4 Speed limits on the widened portions drop from 55 to 50 miles per hour.
Construction related to the I-595 Express toll project shunted all southbound traffic along Interstate 75 into a single lane. Opting not to trudge through that, we shifted to Florida 84 east, the south side frontage road through Weston. Preceding the exchange between I-75, I-575 and the Sawgrass Expressway is a guide sign retaining the old outline-style shield for Florida 869 Toll. These signs are relics to be replaced with the standard Florida Toll shield featuring a yellow Toll banner.
The future eastbound split of Interstate 595 and the I-595 Express Lanes. Construction of the new reversible lanes for I-595 was split into five segments. The westernmost extent (Segments A/B) entails I-595 between I-95 and Nob Hill Road, with work breaking ground in November 2010.
The I-595 Express lanes will flow eastbound between 4 am and 1 pm weekdays and all weekend long. Westbound traffic will use the lanes weekdays 2 pm to 2 am. Tolls will range from 50 cents to $2.00 depending upon congestion and no exemptions for carpools or hybrid vehicles. Speed limits will be set at 70 miles per hour for the managed lanes versus 65 miles per hour on the I-595 general purpose lanes. A Sunpass account is required to use the future lanes.5
Nearing the south end of the 1,786 mile long Interstate 75 at Miami Lakes and Hialeah, Florida. Interstate 75 winds southward 18 miles from I-595 east and the Sawgrass Expressway (SR 869) north to end at Florida 826 (Palmetto Expressway) opposite the tolled Gratigny Parkway (SR 924). This busy stretch of freeway will undergo construction in the coming years with the addition of 75 Express lanes.
Currently in the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) phase, the 75 Express project will include the addition of four managed toll lanes in place of the grassy median throughout the southernmost 18 miles of I-75. Broken into six segments, the I-75 toll lane work coincides with the 10-mile long Palmetto Express project along SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) from West Flagler Street, just south of the Dolphin Expressway, to NW 154th Street at Hialeah.
Potential construction dates and costs for the 75 Express project:6
- Segment A/B – NW 170th Street to south of Miramar Parkway (Exit 7) – late 2014 to early 2018 at $275 million.
- Segment C – south of Miramar Parkway (Exit 7) to south of Sheridan Street (Exit 11) – late 2014 to mid 2017 at $100 million.
- Segment D – south of Sheridan Street (Exit 11) to north of Griffin Road (Exit 13) – late 2014 to mid 2017 at $110 million.
- Segment E – north of Griffin Road (Exit 13) to Interstate 595 (Exit 19) – early 2014 to late 2016 at a cost of $75 million.
- District 6 Segment, SR 826 to NW 170th Street, to be undertaken as part of the Palmetto Express project.
Florida 826, the Palmetto Expressway, northbound at NW 154th Street just beyond I-75. Exits along SR 826 are unnumbered.
Construction on the Palmetto Express toll lane project is expected to start in April 2014 and run through summer 2017. The preliminary cost estimate on the work is $244 million.7
The Palmetto Expressway ends at a folded-diamond interchange with the Florida’s Turnpike adjacent to its interchange with Interstate 95 and U.S. 441. Collectively known as the Golden Glades Interchange, ramps connect SR 826 east with I-95 south via the Turnpike ramps. However the connection to I-95 north requires motorists to briefly join U.S. 441 through a signalized intersection.
Leading south from the Golden Glades Interchange, Interstate 95 continues toward Miami with a split configuration where the left-hand two lanes are a part of the tolled 95 Express lanes. Tolls are charged using congestion-based pricing, where higher rates are levied during busier travel times. Ingress points exist both ahead and beyond the Golden Glades Interchange for southbound travelers, with egress points at Florida 112 (Airport Expressway) west and the south end ahead of Interstate 395.
A short distance south of the ingress point near the Golden Glades Interchange is the toll collection point, where transponder readers hang above the southbound Express lanes. A Sunpass account is required to use the toll lanes as cash collection is not available. Registered carpool users are exempt from paying tolls for the lanes.
Flyovers shuttle drivers from the 95 Express lane to SR 112 (Airport Expressway) west and from SR 112 east onto the Express lanes north. The managed lanes otherwise come to an end just south of the stack interchange with I-195.
Florida A1A (MacArthur Causeway) extends west from Miami Beach toward Downtown Miami by way of Watson Island north of the Port of Miami on Dodge Island. Watson Island is the site where the west portal of the new Port of Miami Tunnel is under construction. Work on the $663-million link to Dodge Island commenced on May 24, 2010 with mining for the tunnels undertaken between November 2011 and May 2013. The tubes will open to the public in May 2014.8
The Port of Miami Tunnel will divert nearly 2,000 semi trucks from the Miami street grid by providing a direct route to Interstate 395 and subsequently Interstate 95. The tubes emerge from between the travel lanes of Florida A1A, at an otherwise wye interchange with the MacArthur Causeway. Designated State Road 887, the underwater crossing includes an eastbound tube at 3,693 feet in length and a westbound tube of 3,980 feet. Both tunnels are 41 feet in diameter accommodating two travel lanes to a depth of 400 feet.9
U.S. 1 north at the beginning of Interstate 95. No sign changes yet for the planned realignment of U.S. 1 away from Brickell Avenue.
Already approved by AASHTO at the October 2013 meeting in Denver, U.S. 1 will shift from Brickell Avenue onto an overlap with Interstate 95 north to the Downtown Distributor (Exit 2A / SR 970) east to rejoin its surface alignment along Biscayne Boulevard. The new overlap will also result in a short extension of U.S. 41 north over former U.S. 1 from SW 8th Street across the Miami River to Biscayne Boulevard Way (SE 4th Street).
New guide signs are already in place for Interstate 395 east on Interstate 95 touting the new Port of Miami Tunnel (Florida 887). The tunnel will also provide access to the Miami Cruise Terminal, with trailblazers posted on related guide signs directing motorists to the port. Tolls will not be charged to use the crossing.
Continuing north along Interstate 95 from I-395, motorists approach the split with the 95 Express lanes. A toll schedule sign includes a second entry for Phase 2 of the managed lanes. Phase 2, under construction from November 2011 to April 2015 at a cost of $112 million, extends the express lanes northward from the Golden Glades Interchange to Broward Boulevard (Exit 27 / SR 842) at Fort Lauderdale.10
The 95 Express lanes see an egress point ahead of the Golden Glades Interchange for motorists bound for either Florida’s Turnpike or the Palmetto Expressway (Florida 826) west. The managed lanes otherwise soar onto a high flyover circumventing all movements at the interchange through to their end ahead of Exit 14 / SR 860 (Miami Gardens Drive).
New guide signs are already in place along portions of Interstate 95 between the Golden Glades Interchange and Fort Lauderdale for Phase 2 of the 95 Express lane project. Phase 1 involved separate projects (Phase 1A and 1B):10
- Phase 1A involved the restriping of Interstate 95 northbound with four general purpose lanes and two express lanes. This work ran between February 2008 and December 2008.
- Phase 1B restriped southbound Interstate 95 with three general purpose lanes and two express lanes and modified the one and off-ramps for Florida 112 (Airport Expressway). Work began in summer 2008 with tolling commencing in January 2010.
The east end of Interstate 595 consists of a trumpet interchange with U.S. 1 (Federal Highway) and ramps to NE 7th Avenue and Eller Drive into Port Everglades. Construction is underway here as well for a flyover carrying traffic to Eller Drive over new railroad tracks built for a Intermodel Container Transfer Facility rail yard at the port. The $42.5-million project runs through late 2014.11
Segment D of the 595 Express Lanes impacts 2.5 miles of I-595 west from I-95 to Davie Road. This includes the westbound beginning of the managed lanes, which precedes the flyovers with U.S. 441. Work here began in June 2010.
The 595 Express lanes include a renumbering of several off-ramps along Interstate 595, including the renumber of Exit 5 with SR 817 to Exit 6 and Exits 2 & 1B for Hiatus Road and SR 823 to Exits 3 & 2.
Traversing the Everglades along the tolled Alligator Alley, Interstate 75 reaches the Collier County rest area at milepost 63. Currently closed for reconstruction, the rest area will reopen in fall 2014. Costing $8.8-million, work increases the number of restrooms, involves construction of a new public safety center (emergency services), and adds new recreational access facilities for the Big Cypress National Preserve.12
Last item of the day returns us to Interstate 75 in the Ft. Myers area, where the aforementioned widening includes expansion of Florida 80 to six lanes between Lexington Avenue and Orange River Boulevard. This includes adding a triple turn lane from SR 80 west onto I-75 south and three new lanes for SR 80 west beyond a set of I-75 bridge supports. Construction on the $29.2-million project started on November 28, 2011, with work continuing beyond the fall 2013 planned wrap-up to this month.13
- Caloosahatchee River Bridge Project – I-75 from north of SR 80 to south of SR 78
- I-75onthego – I-75 Direct Connect, project web site.
- “Welcome to a slice of the promised land: Inside the Catholic town being built by millionaire founder of Domino’s Pizza.” Daily Mail, July 19, 2013.
- “Next phase of Oil Well Road widening under way in Golden Gate Estates.” Naples News, December 24, 2011.
- “I-595: A Guide to new reversible lanes.” Sun Sentinel, February 23, 2014.
- I-75 Express Lanes Project – Project Information.
- Palmetto Express – Project Overview.
- Port of Miami Tunnel – Project Overview.
- About the Port of Miami Tunnel (POMT) Project. Operation 305 Contractor and Supplier Expo web site.
- 95 Express – Project Schedule.
- Port Everglades Construction.
- “I-75/Alligator Alley Rest Area Project at Mile Marker 63 in Collier County.” FDOT newsletter, July 2013.
- I-75 from Luckett Road to SR 80 – Project details.