“The reconstruction project is designed to accommodate increased truck traffic making the northbound U.S. 301 to eastbound I-10 movement,” says Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Greg Evans. “Northbound trucks using U.S. 301 are primarily heading to Jacksonville or points north. Overall, The Florida Department of Transportation expects the expansion project to improve the flow of traffic through the interchange.”
The existing interchange features two truck stops, drawing a significant number of semi-trucks. However, it also has several deficiencies, including substandard loop ramps, a deceleration ramp that is too short, not enough queue space on U.S. 301, a short weaving distance between loop ramps and U.S. 301, and there is not enough vertical clearance under the bridges. Truck traffic frequently backs up as vehicles try to move from northbound U.S. 301 to eastbound I-10.
Approximately 52,500 vehicles travel on I-10 in the area of the intersection and 17,800 on U.S. 301.
“In addition, Florida is a major player in the global economy and has exported more than $85 billion in goods, with most of those loads moving on Florida highways on the way to seaports and rail centers,” Evans continues. “The funding for this project allowed for the Department of Transportation to continue its mission to provide a safe transportation system that ensures the mobility of people and goods, enhances economic prosperity, and preserves the quality of our environment and communities.”
The reconstructed southbound U.S. 301 to eastbound I-10 exit ramp will eventually merge into single-lane entrance ramp from northbound U.S. 301 to eastbound I-10, and it will create more merge room onto I-10.
The current left turn movement at the signal will be eliminated and traffic will free-flow in a right turn lane with the construction of a new single-lane entrance ramp from northbound U.S. 301 to eastbound I-10, which will merge with the southbound U.S. 301 to eastbound I-10 entrance ramp.
The exit ramp from eastbound I-10 to U.S. 301 will be widened and become a dual left turn lane to northbound U.S. 301 and a single right turn lane to southbound U.S. 301.
A new single-lane exit ramp from westbound I-10 to U.S. 301 will ultimately split allowing for separate exit ramps for northbound and southbound U.S. 301 traffic. A signal will control traffic on the dual right turn lane for northbound U.S. 301 and a two-lane ramp for southbound U.S. 301. The new ramp also will improve I-10 westbound and provide more capacity during peak times.
A realigned westbound entrance ramp from southbound U.S. 301 to westbound I-10 will be controlled by a yield sign. Reconstructed turn lanes will either extend or eliminate both left and right turn lanes at the interchange.
Connelly & Wicker of Jacksonville designed the project. There were no environmental concerns.
In 2015, FDOT completed a $67 million widening of U.S. 301 north of Baldwin. The department plans other future work in this area.
Work began on the project in 2016, with an original finish date anticipated in 2019. However, issues with the CSX railroad led to changes and delays. Constructing the multiple bridge structures over the rail yard was an interesting aspect of the project.
“As the function of CSXT’s rail yard changed and train volumes increased, working over the rail yard became increasingly challenging,” Speights says. “The project went through a major redesign of the proposed I-10 bridge structures over the CSXT rail yard. The redesign was warranted to allow for the contractor to maximize its work and minimize any conflicts with CSXT’s rail yard.
“The redesign moved the center support pier further west, increasing the necessary beam lengths. This additional beam length required a change from concrete to steel. Movement of the center support pier also reduced the conflicts with the increased train volumes.”
The bridge structures are being constructed with various sizes of concrete piling and various sizes of concrete and steel beams.
Crews are paving all of the ramps with concrete.
“This will reduce future maintenance costs and provide a more durable pavement to accommodate the significant volume of large trucks that utilize the interchange,” Speights says.
Superior Construction used GPS modeling in constructing the embankment, subgrade, and base.
Traffic management also presented challenges.
“Traffic is maintained on existing travel lanes using diversions and newly constructed travel lanes,” says Shannon Mobley, the U.S. 301 and I-10 Improvement Project Administrator, for GPI in Jacksonville, the project management firm. “To ensure the safety of the traveling public, the plans called for multiple construction phases to accommodate traffic movements during construction.”
The project is now scheduled for completion in 2023.
“This expansion project will allow for future growth and better flow of traffic throughout the busy corridor,” Speights concludes.