Triangle Expressway pits saving time versus spending money

Posted December 19, 2012
Updated December 20, 2012

— The completion of North Carolina's first toll road means area drivers have to balance the cost of driving on the new highway against a savings in time and money, officials say.

The third and final leg of the Triangle Expressway in western Wake County opens Thursday morning, but tolls won't be collected on the 6-mile stretch until Jan. 2.

"Merry Christmas to those who want to use this road," North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said Wednesday while wearing a red Santa suit.

The new section, which runs from U.S. Highway 64 in Apex to the N.C. Highway 55 Bypass in Holly Springs, is opening 13 days early and millions of dollars under budget, Conti said.

Drivers will have to pay for the early present, however.

The Department of Transportation says a trip on the 18-mile toll road will cost $2.34 for drivers with an N.C. Quick Pass transponder on their vehicles and $3.59 for drivers who have to be billed by mail after the electronic tolling gantries snap photos of their license plates.

Even with a transponder, using the toll road could cost a driver more than $1,200 a year for a round-trip commute along the entire length five days a week. The DOT says people need to balance that against an estimated savings of 20 minutes on each one-way trip, along with the extra gas spent in traffic on local roads.

Area residents valued the savings differently. Triangle Expressway Final leg of Triangle Expressway opens Thursday

"If it was going to save 20 minutes each way and that means an extra 40 minutes with my husband at night that he can spend with our kids, then yeah, that would be worth the money," said Nicole Pawelski, of Holly Springs.

"I'm trying to be efficient with my spending. I don't think I'll use it," said Audrey Pedeliski, of Fuquay-Varina. "I think, as long as I can get good gas prices, I'll probably go the extra length down (N.C.) 55 and put up with the pain."

"I think it's a bargain. I mean, really, because traffic is just a nightmare," said Carol Tavitian, of Fuquay-Varina.

The opening comes a year after the first section of the toll road, the Triangle Parkway, opened, connecting N.C. Highway 147 in Durham to N.C. Highway 540 in Wake County. The second section, which carried N.C. 540 to U.S. 64, opened in August.

Conti said the transponders will be compatible with the E-ZPass toll-collection system used in the Northeast by early January, and he expects it to work with toll systems in Georgia, Florida and other Southern states by the middle of next year.


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  • superman Dec 21, 2012

    This aint much different than the high tax they have placed on cigarettes. Pay the tax or dont smoke. Pay the toll or use other means to get to work. The road in our subdivision hasnt been resurfaced in over 35 years. There are hundreds of pot holes they have filled over the years. I be happy for them to resurface our road and make it a toll road. When we have contacted the state they say they know the road needs work but there is no money and not likely to be any. People who live in our subdivision also pay taxes.

  • quinene Dec 20, 2012

    My drive into work was 17min shorter. My drive home was 26min shorter. Total time saved 43min.

    Not having to deal with stop and go traffic and crazy drivers on the road....Priceless!

    Say what you want...I'll be using the Expressway on a daily basis!

  • Alexia.1 Dec 20, 2012

    "How dare NC give people the CHOICE to pay to use a new road or not pay to use an existing one...." --WooHoo2You

    This is about like suggesting people can walk to work, too. They could, but we create paved roads and allow cars to allow people to be able to move more quickly.

    All roads in NC, except this one, are paid for through taxes (or federal highways dollars, which are our taxes given back to us). Why is this one special? And why are a select group of people, specifically those living in SW Wake going to RTP required to pay a toll for efficient roads, while NE Wake citizens are not?

    Just add the required cost of this road to the tax bill of all vehicles. It would likely only be $1 or $2 per driver per year.

  • Alexia.1 Dec 20, 2012

    In all seriousness, citizens of NC should take a stand to get rid of the tolling and disband the turnpike authority (whatever they are called). Who do we write to? I'll write a letter tomorrow if I knew who could do something to end this nonsense.

  • Alexia.1 Dec 20, 2012

    Curious to know how much traffic was on the road today. I drove over that new stretch about 3:45 PM and was surprised that there were actually more than 10 cars I could count. Given that it was not rush hour and some do not know the road is open, I was amazed. I wonder how many will travel that road once it starts costing money for the privilege of using the road?

    I don't really see how it will make any money. People will take the road to save time. Money it will not likely save. Tolls far exceed cost of gas. If traffic moves from NC55 to this road, then 55 will be fairly clear. So, time it will not save, either.

    The whole toll idea is nonsense. NC did not need toll roads for how many years? No we do? No, we do not. If the road is needed, collect taxes required to pay for it. We do that for all other roads.

  • wwarrior Dec 20, 2012

    I'd love to see the traffic counts for the Triangle Expressway vs. I-540. I'd also like to compare those numbers to DOT's projections. I can't imagine this toll road will ever make enough money to pay for the collection of the tolls, much less the construction of the highway itself. If they are able to pay for it, I can at least take comfort in the fact that the money didn't come out of my wallet.

    Good luck with that.

  • WooHoo2You Dec 20, 2012

    How dare NC give people the CHOICE to pay to use a new road or not pay to use an existing one....

  • Half Red Half Blue Dec 20, 2012

    @Grandpeople... This ain't no English class.

  • Half Red Half Blue Dec 20, 2012

    "A toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll, and if we don't get no tolls, then we don't eat no rolls." .... Little John

  • Half Red Half Blue Dec 20, 2012

    I cant wait to do my own study with this. One week I will use the toll road for my routine travel to work and back. Average out the time, toll cost, fuel consumption along with fuel cost. Then do the same with my current route. I don't care about how much time it would save me, I care about the bottom line. How much money would I save?