The purpose of this Systems Interchange Modification Report (SIMR) Re-evaluation is to seek Safety, Operational and Engineering (SO&E) acceptability for the proposed improvements to the currently under construction Design-Build project that will deploy express lanes along Interstate 295 (I-295) between SR 9B and SR 202 (J.T. Butler Boulevard) (milepost 17.439 and milepost 23.560) in Duval County, Florida. The I-295 corridor within the project limits is a significant component of the Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) and provides a key transportation element in linking the major ports, airports, and railways that handle Florida’s passenger and freight traffic.
I-295 East Express Phase I project provides much needed capacity improvements to the study area corridor by adding two express lanes and reconstructing the existing general purpose (GP) lanes to accommodate the new express lanes in either direction of I-295 within the project limits. However, recent developments and land use changes near the study area are anticipated to increase the traffic demand or change existing travel patterns from what was considered during the I-295 East Express Phase I evaluation. The Northeast Regional Planning Model (NERPM) Activity-Based (AB) was utilized and traffic forecasts were re-developed for Opening Year (2025) and Design Year (2045) to account for these recent anticipated developments within the study area. NERPM AB predicted higher volumes along I-295 and SR 9B by Horizon Year (2040) than what was previously anticipated with the I-295 East Express Phase I SIMR (October 2014). Thus, to ensure optimal functionality of the express lanes, safer and efficient operations of the GP lanes, an additional GP lane is needed in both the northbound and southbound directions along I-295 within the study area.
A Methodology Letter of Understanding (MLOU) was approved by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 2 Interchange Review Coordinator (IRC), the FDOT Central Office, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in September 2019 laying the foundation for this SIMR Re-evaluation. The project area of influence was maintained similar to the I-295 East Express Phase I SIMR (October 2014) and the I-295 East Express Phase I SIMR Re-evaluation (July 2016) to maintain consistency. Traffic forecasting and traffic operational and safety analyses for this project were performed in accordance with the approved MLOU.
Two build alternatives were considered for this SIMR Re-evaluation. The Original Build Alternative that was developed through the Alternative Technical Concept (ATC) process during the Design-Build team procurement and the current proposed Preferred Build Alternative. The design changes with the Original Build Alternative were documented in the I-295 East Express Phase I SIMR Re-evaluation approved in July 2016. This concept is currently under construction and is anticipated to be completed by Spring 2020. The Preferred Build Alternative proposes to widen northbound I-295 by adding an additional GP lane from the off-ramp to SR 152 to north of the Gate Parkway on-ramp and from south of SR 152 off-ramp to the SR 9B off-ramp in the southbound I-295 direction.
Crash data from the most recent five years (2012-2016) indicated that approximately 1,360 crashes occurred along the I-295 project corridor, including 11 fatalities and 33 severe injury crashes. Rear-end crashes are the most predominant crash type within the region and are indicative of stop- and-go conditions reflective of bottlenecks. With the construction of capacity improvements through the on-going Design-Build project, relief can be obtained from these crashes with the availability of additional capacity.
This SIMR Re-evaluation documents the volume development process used (Section 6.0) and evaluates the operational and safety benefits realized by the proposed Preferred Build Alternative (Section 7.0).
The purpose of this project is to add an additional GP lane for each direction of I-295, improve speed and travel time in the GP lanes, and to improve overall operations along the corridor from SR 9B to the Town Center Parkway interchange.
Currently under construction, the I-295 East Express Phase I project provides capacity improvements to the study area corridor by adding two express lanes and reconstructs the existing GP lanes to accommodate the new express lanes in either direction along I-295 between the SR 9B interchange and the SR 202 interchange. However, recent developments and land use changes near the study area are anticipated to increase the magnitude or change existing travel patterns from what was considered during the I-295 East Express Phase I evaluation. Recent counts conducted in the year 2019 showed a significant increase in traffic volumes along SR 9B with the completion of all phases of SR 9B construction from I-295 to CR 2209. At the time of the I-295 East Express Phase I SIMR (October 2014), the Turnpike State Model (TSM) was the best available model for traffic volume development. Since the Re-evaluation approval in July 2016, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (NFTPO) released the locally approved Northeast Regional Planning Model (NERPM) Activity-Based (AB) which utilizes the latest and best available socioeconomic data. This travel demand model captures the new developments and roadway improvements within the area and provides more realistic forecasts on traffic volumes for the future conditions.
NERPM AB predicted higher volumes along I-295 and SR 9B by Horizon Year (2040) than what was previously anticipated with the I-295 East Express Phase I SIMR (October 2014). Also, the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) projects Duval County’s 2040 future population to be 1,177,600 (medium projection). This represents an increase of approximately 207,000 residents. Thus, to ensure optimal functionality of the express lanes, safer and efficient operations of the GP lanes and to serve these additional trips anticipated with the new development and population growth, an additional GP lane is needed in both the northbound and southbound directions along I-295 within the study area.
Preliminary NERPM AB evaluations show that the segment of I-295 north of SR 9B carried an Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) that ranged from approximately 125,000 vehicles during Opening Year (2025) to approximately 215,000 vehicles during Design Year (2045). This corresponds to a Level of Service (LOS) C during Opening Year (2025) and LOS F during Design Year (2045) conditions for the current under-construction two express and two GP lanes typical section using the FDOT generalized AADT values for Florida’s urbanized areas (Table 1 from FDOT’s Quality/Level of Service Handbook).