FDOT Secretary to provide update on Outer Beltway

August 22, 2012 50 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad will be in Jacksonville this Thursday to provide the community with an update on the status of the First Coast Outer Beltway. Metro Jacksonville encourages the general public to attend and express your concerns about the pending implementation of Jacksonville's latest superhighway.

North Florida TPO Notice of Board Meeting

Thursday, August 23 at 10 a.m. - 12 noon

FDOT Training Center, 2198 Edison Avenue

Jacksonville, FL

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad has requested a special meeting to provide an update to the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Board on the First Coast Outer Beltway and to receive guidance from the Board. An opportunity for public comment will be provided following the presentation and before and Board action.

About The Outer Beltway

The First Coast Outer Beltway is a proposed $1.8 billion, 46.5 mile, four-lane limited access toll facility that includes the St. Johns River Crossing Corridor in St. Johns and Clay Counties and the Branan Field-Chaffee Road (SR 23) project in Clay and Duval Counties.

In early 2011 the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) abandoned the plan to find a private company to build the entire 46.6 mile beltway and just focus on building the 15 mile section between I-10 and SR-21 (Blanding Blvd). This section is partly built and would need flyovers built and widening done for the expressway to be complete. It is expected to cost around $291 million and would be a tollway.

In August 2011, the FDOT announced that the Florida's Turnpike Enterprise will be taking on the $291 million project of turning the 15-mile stretch into a tollway. Construction on the road is expected to begin in 2012 and be open by 2016. As for the remaining 30+ miles of the beltway, the FDOT is still trying to find a private partnership to build that section of the road, but currently none has been found.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), all tolls will be done electronically and compatible with SunPass used in other parts of the state with no toll booths. There will be two exceptions to the tollroad. The 3-mile section between I-10 and SR 134 (103rd Street) will not be tolled to help promote growth in the Cecil Commerce Center. Also people living around the Shands Bridge area will be exempt from tolls on the Shands Bridge crossing the St. Johns River.

For residents who can't or are not willing to pay a daily toll to access their existing residences and businesses, a network of local streets will be made available, including frontage roads paralleling a portion of the Outer Beltway.

Ultimately, if fully constructed, the First Coast Outer Beltway will take a serpentine route through the counties of St. Johns, Clay and Duval, linking Interstates 10 and 95. FDOT believes future drivers will be willing to drive miles out of the way and pay tolls in order to bypass traffic congestion on I-295, Blanding, Roosevelt and San Jose Boulevards. Others believe this highway will turn Clay and St. Johns Counties into economic powerhouses.

First Coast Outer Beltway typical cross section (click on image to enlarge)

One glaring omission in this conceptual cross section is the lack of sidewalks or a multiuse path.  Considering, the major purpose of this project is to help stimulate new development in Clay County and Jacksonville's westside, making this a multimodal corridor from the start seems like a logical decision.  Before, the naysayers claim that it can't be done, Tampa's Suncoast Parkway already suggests otherwise.  

The Gulf Coast's Suncoast Parkway's Suncoast Trail indicates that alternative modes of transportation can be integrated into limited access roadway projects.

A multi-use trail paralleling the Suncoast Parkway

This new highway in Central Florida's Polk County was designed to include a separated multiuse path before the corridor is overwhelmed with suburban development.  

New development at Clay County's Oakleaf Plantation.

With the proposed Outer Beltway, the right-of-way is there and the land is already zoned for millions of square feet for residential, commerical and industrial uses. Oakleaf, alone, is expected to have over 11,000 residents at buildout.

If we're going to pay nearly $300 million to construct this project, while overlooking the additional costs needed to maintain it for eternity, let's at least get it right and make it multimodal friendly.

Update by Ennis Davis