It has been a Mixmaster of new and old pavement winding around Interstates 95 and 295 on Jacksonville’s Northside since 2016, part of an enormous project to reshape a busy interchange just miles from Jacksonville International Airport and the Florida-Georgia border.
But the $176.8 million project, with an original completion date of late 2020, remains under construction, and it could be that way for another year, the Florida Department of Transportation says.
Major parts of the I-295 North Interchange Operational Improvements Project should open in about two months, FDOT spokeswoman Samantha Rambeau said. But the project won’t be complete until spring 2024, she said.
These are the next steps:
- Crews are working to complete a series of traffic shifts that will allow completion of large areas of paving on the new I-295/I-95 lanes and ramps. Crews are working five days a week, often day and night.
- Four bridges over I-95 and North Main Street will be completed in the next month in preparation for a significant traffic switch in early June.
- This week, workers are also placing soil, building walls, guardrail, signs and placing asphalt and concrete pavement on the new areas of I-295 over I-95.
State statistics show almost 100,000 vehicles a day use I-95 through the I-295 interchange. The interchange project will “modernize and reconfigure” the roads to handle more traffic with better flow and more safely, the FDOT said.
For now, though, soaring new overpasses and exits mix with barricades and huge sand embankments held back with plastic netting. Winding temporary lanes are hemmed in with Jersey Barriers.
Many drivers encounter traffic backups at some exits between I-95 and I-295. Those backups can sometimes extend east to the other part of the project — the redesign of the North Main Street and I-295 interchange nearby.
The project website has changed the completion dates a number of times.
Mother Nature caused some problems. Washouts and drainage issues forced the contractor to address changes to the interchange plan, the FDOT said.
There also was a delay in February 2020, when crews found human bones and a headstone while bulldozing new fill dirt to build up the northeast side of the I-295 overpass at North Main Street. Work was on hold until investigators determined the remains came from an unknown cemetery on Eastport Road where fill dirt was being dug up for the project.
The project is being done in multiple areas where the existing roads are “in the same footprint” as new ones, Rambeau said. Material and supply chain issues also slowed this and other construction projects nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said.
“At times it may appear no progress is being made, but FDOT is collaborating with the contractor to find ways to expedite completion, while still maintaining the department’s quality and safety standards,” Rambeau said.
Two major parts of the project, highlighted in green on the aerial image below, are set to open in June.
Rambeau said Archer Western, the contractor leading the project, does not face fines for delays because it is “currently working on this project within allowable contract time.”
FDOT officials meet twice a week with Archer Western to ensure work is in accordance with the contract. If the contractor fails to meet its obligations, including completion of the project within the contracted time frame, the FDOT will evaluate and assess damages in accordance with Florida law, she said.