Interstates 95 and 10 are two of the longest highways in the U.S., stretching over 4,000 miles. As expansive as they are, the 3-mile corridor where they intersect in Jacksonville presents cramped, sometimes chaotic, challenges.
When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) set out to update the I-10/I-95 interchange and surrounding 3-mile stretch, the motorists scattering in all directions through a series of ramps weren’t the only stakeholders to keep in mind. The residents from the urban corridor around the project needed top-of-mind attention, too.
“We wanted to make sure the local values, local needs were satisfied,” said RS&H Project Manager Dan Kristoff. “We did whatever we could do to satisfy those needs and maintain the integrity of the project – and stay within budget.”
RS&H’s design did just that. As a result, the Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers (FICE) has awarded the project as its PD&E/Planning Project of the Year. FICE annually recognizes outstanding achievement by its member firms in accomplishing Florida transportation projects.
The I-95/I-10 interchange distributes north-south and east-west inter-regional traffic while dispersing daily commuter traffic to three adjacent interchanges serving the downtown urban core business and residential areas. In 2014, the interchange handled more than 250,000 vehicles per day with an expected increase to over 300,000 vehicles per day by 2035.
The project aims to improve operational characteristics of the directional interchange and I-10 approaches, while adding unique features that will connect the city’s core. But doing so would require a lot of community input.
RS&H and FDOT partnered with local officials, representatives of the historic neighborhoods, local architects, the Riverside Arts Market, and pedestrian and bicycle advocates. The groups met bi-monthly to review and refine aesthetic features that would be in harmony with the surrounding neighborhoods, enhance the weekly community activities, and demonstrate how the interchange enhancements will benefit the daily commuter.
Commitments were made and honored to secure no additional right-of-way from neighborhoods or businesses. To minimize the impact of the highway improvements on surrounding businesses and residents, the designers opted for LED cutoff lights to help eliminate light intrusion. The final design incorporated noise barriers to reduce roadway noise. By using compensatory treatment facilities, the project converted under bridge retention ponds to parking areas, a community sponsored dog park, and spaces for local artists to display their creations. Aesthetic features inspired by the architecture of the adjacent Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens were incorporated into the design of a shared-use path across the St. Johns River.
“This wasn’t just a transportation project,” Kristoff said. “We needed to focus on the community at large. We worked to reduce the impact on Riverside, Avondale, and San Marco, as well as downtown. We were really able to reinforce the urban environment and create benefits for those who live and visit there.”
The multimodal enhancements will improve urban connectivity across the St. Johns River, providing a long sought direct link between historic districts. The under bridge areas will provide greatly expanded space for community activities, including the popular Riverside Arts Market under the I-95 bridge, which will now have more space for exhibitors and parking.
Additionally, the project will improve safety for motorists and reduce the frequency of accidents. RS&H’s collaboration with FDOT engineers reorganized and reconfigured ramps to dramatically reduce weaving between the closely spaced interchanges.
“The Florida Department of Transportation strives to produce the best product for the motoring public as well as adjacent stakeholders,” said FDOT District 2 representative Bill Henderson. “This project will provide a safer, more efficient roadway as well as greatly enhance the surrounding neighborhoods.”
There were no cost overruns throughout the completion of the PD&E study. Even though the initial opposition to the project required more public meetings and a multitude of community-centered work sessions, the project proceeded into the design-build procurement phase within the original schedule.
“This is a model example of what a strong partnership can look like,” Kristoff said.