The Florida Turnpike Enterprise business unit within the state’s Department of Transportation (FDOT) has opened new Express Lanes on the Beachline Expressway/SR 528 from I-4 to the Turnpike as part of the agency’s long-term congestion relief program.
The US170m project, which also includes several intersection improvements, is a part of FDOT’s ongoing strategy to relieve congestion and improve safety in urban areas of the state and will provide customers with the additional capacity on the Beachline Expressway/SR 528. The newly-opened 4 miles (6.4km) long section features two Express Lanes and the addition of one auxiliary lane in each direction. The section from the Turnpike to McCoy Road is scheduled to open later this year and will feature one Express Lane per direction.
Customers traveling in the Express Lanes will pay the same toll amount as they currently pay to use the general-purpose lanes on the Beachline Expressway/SR 528. At this time, there will not be an additional toll to use the new lanes, although a variably-priced model could be introduced for peak time travel. The Express Lanes will allow customers to travel direct to I-4 and the Orlando International Airport. Initially, the Express Lanes will be separated from the general lanes using double skip striping only, allowing customers time to become familiar with using the new lanes. Customers should follow the guide signs that they should stay left for express travel and stay right for local journeys.
Customers must have a SunPass, or other interoperable transponder such as the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s (CFX) E-Pass, to travel in the Express Lanes as no cash or Toll-by-Plate is accepted. Drivers can face a US$25 penalty plus tolls for the violation. No trucks are allowed in the Express Lanes, as only two-axle vehicles and buses are permitted to use the facility. FDOT constantly evaluates congestion relief strategies throughout the state and will continue to monitor traffic conditions and driver behavior using the latest in congestion management technology for the Beachline Expressway/SR 528. Once drivers are charged for their use, the Express Lanes will be separated from the traditional toll lanes by orange markers secured to the ground. The markers will then limit access in and out of the Express Lanes.
“Express Lanes are a new concept for Central Florida,” said Katie Mitzner, a spokesperson for the Florida Turnpike Enterprise. “We just want customers to get used to the idea that they are still Express Lanes, because the local traffic is encouraged to stay to the right for traffic going a mile or two down the road. The Express Lanes on the left are for those going the whole 4-mile stretch. Implementing the fluctuating pricing structure is dependent on driver behavior, congestion and nearby construction on the Turnpike and I-4.”
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