As part of our End of the Road series, we’ve reported extensively on the so-called “Lexus Lanes” on I-95. In the 95 express lanes drivers can pay a toll to get around regular gridlock traffic. That toll varies based on how many car are piling into the express lanes at that moment. The more demand, the higher the toll -- to keep things moving.
An internal FDOT report shows more and more drivers are plowing past bright yellow “closed” signs and getting into 95 Express when the lanes are technically shut down for accidents or broken-down vehicles. But the Florida Highway Patrol can’t enforce the signs because they’re the wrong color: yellow-on-black instead of black-and-white.
Carlos Lora doesn’t care what the electronic toll sign for 95 Express says. Fifty cents, $6.00, $10.50 -- it doesn’t matter. After a long day at work as a South Beach condo manager, he’s getting in his Mini Cooper to go home to Hollywood Beach, and he's using the fast lanes to get there.
“And even if it says ‘closed,’ I’m guilty of still jumping on,” Lora says.
Miami's Southbound Interstate 95 from 153rd Street to 125th Street looks -- and feels -- like it was engineered by Pablo Picasso.
Just south of the Golden Glades Interchange, the pavement turns into a patchwork of concrete slabs. Hundreds of them, jutting up as high as one-eighth of an inch above the expressway’s surface.
“It felt like we were literally traveling over numerous speed bumps,” public safety advocate Mike Arias wrote in an email to the Florida Department of Transportation. “Like if we were riding over a roller coaster and almost ready to puke.”
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is finished with free trips in the fast lanes. The newly opened 595 Express and the planned 75 Express and Palmetto Express projects do not and will not include free rides for anyone.
But 95 Express, the first system of its kind in Florida, was the exception. Those lanes were created by converting high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes into toll lanes, so HOV toll exemptions were initially grandfathered in.
While state transportation departments around the country have been scrambling in anticipation of a potential Highway Trust Fund insolvency, Florida officials aren’t sweating quite yet.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the Highway Trust Fund, which trickles down and helps pay for everything from highways to sidewalks, will run out of money in August. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would temporarily fix the problem.
A drive down I-95 is full of dozens, probably hundreds, of tiny design decisions that are ultimately about driver attention. From the lettering on a road sign to the shape of a road, engineers are constantly trying to find a sweet spot between getting a driver’s attention and distracting them.
As part of our End of the Road series we wanted to ask an expert about the thinking behind some of the things drivers see everyday on I-95 but aren’t supposed to pay much attention to.
Alyce and Neil Robertson were running late to a wedding one day 20 or 30 years ago. Because they were running late, they were arguing in the car, until some maniac on the road did something crazy.
Naturally, some of the details have slipped over the years. But the two agree they were on their way to a friend’s wedding and Alyce was mad at Neil for making them late. Here’s how they remember the rest...
Brian Rick is on a crusade. As a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation he has chewed the ear of dozens, maybe a hundred people -- reporters, friends, anybody who refers to 95 Express as the “Lexus Lanes.”
“You don’t see a Lexus every two or three cars," Rick says. He notices the pickup trucks and work vans. "If you're delivering auto parts or you're delivering medical supplies... that's where reliability becomes essential. "
As part of our End of the Road series -- about the final 87 miles of I-95 -- we’ve asked a lot of questions: Why don’t people seem to get in trouble for speeding in the express lanes? What even is the speed limit in the express lanes? When you accidentally cut someone off, what should you do when they pull a gun on you?
They write songs about roads: "Route 66," "Highway 61 Revisited"."Dusty, old roads with iconic signage that belongs on a pair of blue jeans.
“When you talk about ... the road as an attractive proposition, usually it’s open and it’s driveable,” says composer Carlos Rafael Rivera, who teaches American creative music at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. “I-95 is a little bit of the opposite. So I can see how songs would be written in a negative way about it."
The maximum possible toll on 95 Express increased from $7 to $10.50 on March 1. Two days later at 5:30 p.m., the cost of using the northbound express lanes hit the $10.50 maximum.
Rory Santana from the Florida Department of Transportation says a truck jack-knifed and backed up the highway, so people flooded 95 Express and drove the price into the ceiling.
Since March 1 the cost of a ride in the fast lane has hit $10.50 at least 13 times. Nine of those cases occurred on the northbound express lanes, seven of which happened between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.