Enjoy it while it lasts — the free ride is almost over on the I-95 express lanes in northern Broward County.
After years of construction and traffic headaches, the express lanes are finally nearing completion on the nearly 5-mile stretch from Cypress Creek to Glades Road. While that means no more nightly road closures, you’ll have to open your wallet — or activate your SunPass — if you want to drive on the toll lanes.
The $102 million project is expected to be finished by November, but tolling will begin sooner than that — either in late summer or early fall, a Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman said.
While construction crews are putting the finishing touches on the project, drivers have received a free sneak peak of those express lanes, which opened to the public a few months ago. Tolling didn’t begin immediately because the state is still testing and finalizing its all-electronic tolling technology, which uses mounted cameras and sensors to bill drivers through SunPass or their license plate.
Tolls on the pay roads range from 50 cents to an estimated $10.50, depending on the time of day, the amount of traffic and distance traveled in the express lanes.
Separated by tubular dividers — which are orange in some parts, but white in other sections — the express lanes were built as an attempt to create a more steady flow of traffic throughout the day.
The I-95 express lanes first made their appearance in Miami-Dade, with construction beginning back in 2008. Since then, the lanes have crept farther north through Broward up to Boca Raton.
Work on the five-mile stretch from Cypress Creek Road to Glades Road began in January 2018. Construction crews added an additional lane and converted the HOV lane in both directions to extend the I-95 express lanes into Palm Beach County. Until construction completely wraps, there’s still expected to be nightly lane closures, which usually occur between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
Although drivers in northern Broward will soon be off the hook from express lanes construction, commuters in Palm Beach County aren’t as lucky.
The transportation department has already begun construction to extend the express lanes to Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach as part of a separate project. That 6-mile stretch is projected to be finished by the end of 2023.
In the coming years, drivers will be getting an extra 37 miles of toll lanes from Palm Beach County all the way to the Martin County line.
Additionally, the busy Glades Road interchange in Boca Raton is currently being transformed into an unconventional, yet increasingly popular new formation — a “diverging diamond,” making it the first of its kind in Palm Beach County.
A weaving, diamond-shaped pattern, the interchange briefly sends drivers onto the opposite side of the road to allow for safer and easier left turns to and from I-95. Construction is projected to be completed by the end of 2023.