New toll lanes will hopefully bring solution to Ikea-related crowding

Residents near Jacksonville’s Southside have raised concerns about how one of Jacksonville’s biggest new business developments — the arrival of Ikea — will affect the area’s already-congested roadways.

But at least one new project will hopefully ease the area near the St. Johns Center at I-295 and Gate Parkway, thanks to a late update that will allow it to continue as planned.

The Florida Department of Transportation will be able to go ahead with construction on its toll road system on I-295 between State Road 9B and J. Turner Butler Blvd. On Thursday, a lawsuit against FDOT’s contract for the project and that held up construction was dropped.

FDOT Spokesman Ron Tittle said construction will begin in spring of next year, with an open house for public comment slated for January or February.

The project will relieve congestion in the area by adding two toll express lanes in each direction and making minor interchange improvements, said James Knight, urban planning and modal administrator for FDOT District Two, in an email to the Business Journal.

The hope is for the toll road system to ease the congestion Southside residents are concerned will stem from Ikea, which is expected to be a draw for other Jacksonville residents and out-of-city tourists alike.

At a Thursday night meeting hosted by City Councilman Danny Becton, representing the Southside area, many of those transportation concerns were addressed by FDOT and Ikea.

“The idea was to allow the community to really understand the project and to understand the details of what the project was all about,” Becton told the Business Journal in a phone interview. “It was also to understand some of the solutions to some of the transportation issues already that are are already underway.”

The concern, Becton said, is that the addition of an Ikea will make already bad traffic worse.

But, at the meeting, Ikea executives made it clear that Ikea likely wouldn’t contribute to the area’s problematic rush-hour traffic: Ikea won’t open until 10 a.m., and most of the store’s business happens from Friday to Sunday, not during the week.