Road Construction Could Create Detour during 2005 Super Bowl; Work on New Interchange at Interstates 95 and 295 Would Force Jacksonville Drivers to Use Philips Highway

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, The Times-Union

Construction of the big interchange at Interstates 95 and 295 in southeast Jacksonville could force a super-sized detour during next year's Super Bowl.

The state Department of Transportation will close the ramp from northbound I-95 to I-295 for eight months or longer while crews build an elevated ramp in the same place as the existing one, department spokesman Mike Goldman said.

The state has not set a date for the change, but it's a "very real probability" the closure will overlap Jacksonville hosting the Feb. 6 Super Bowl, Goldman said.

About 15,500 vehicles travel the ramp daily, according to the state. Those drivers will face delays when they detour via Philips Highway to reach I-295.

Closing the ramp won't hurt business during the Super Bowl because the Jacksonville hotels will be booked solid, said Fred Pozin, general manager of the Ramada Inn Mandarin.

He said the detour will be "devastating to businesses along I-295" at other times because many motorists will avoid the detour and just stay on I-95 while driving through Jacksonville.

"If it's a night or two, no big deal," he said. "Eight months, absolutely we're going to see some hardship."

The $105 million interchange will connect I-95 and I-295 with the Florida 9A beltway being built through Jacksonville's Southside. Florida 9A will join I-295 to form a loop around the city. The interchange recently passed the halfway mark and is scheduled for completion by early 2006.

The state offered a $5 million bonus for completion of the new interchange before the Super Bowl so visitors wouldn't be confused by lane changes and detours.

However, it does not appear the contractor, AMEC Civil, will make that bonus deadline, based on information the company has given the state so far about the construction schedule, Goldman said.

A lawsuit filed by the company in August contends the state failed to get a permit exempting AMEC's nighttime construction from noise pollution limits enforced by Jacksonville City Hall.

The lawsuit contends the lack of the noise permit threw off AMEC's schedule for meeting the Super Bowl bonus. …