Local News

Debate Over I-540 Tolls Rages Before Apex Council

Posted May 15, 2007

Wake County leaders, including local mayors, will decide Wednesday whether to support turning the western leg of Interstate 540 into a toll road. The state says there's no money to build the rest of the stretch unless drivers pitch in.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority has proposed putting toll booths on 18.6 miles of roadway. That includes a 2.8-mile segment of I-540 under construction and set to open this summer from N.C. 54 to N.C. 55.

The segment of freeway will connect two roads not built yet — the Triangle Parkway, a 3.4-mile stretch from N.C. 147 and I-40 through Research Triangle Park to I-540 and the Western Wake Parkway, and a 12.4-mile new stretch of I-540 from N.C. 55 near RTP to N.C. 55 between Holly Springs and Apex.

About a dozen Apex residents spoke out against the idea in front of the Apex Town Council Tuesday night.

“We're being taxed four times for roads,” said Larry Ballis. “I mean, that's the basic bottom line.”

“To me, a toll road is an indictment on our state government that they don't know how to manage their money,” said Marty Allen.

Others who spoke in support of the toll road say there are no other options.

“It's probably the lesser of the evils when you come right down to it,” said Clare Owens.

The total estimated cost for construction of the roadways is $800 million. Tolls would pay for about 75 percent, and the General Assembly would have to make up rest with $215 million in gap funding to build, operate and maintain the roads. The cost would come out to about $20 million a year.

State House Minority Leader Paul Stam told the Town Council Tuesday night that the money was not included in the House budget. But he said he spoke to senators on that chamber's Appropriations Committee, and he believes the money will be in the Senate version of the budget.

"The money does not exist in this state to build these kinds of projects anymore," said Steve DeWitt with the N.C. Turnpike Authority. "The options are: we put tolls on this corridor or we wait."

With tolls, DeWitt said, the roads could be built it by 2011. Without them, the projected date is 2030.

The toll would be 10 cents per mile, about $2 for whole stretch. It will ultimately be all electronic, something like the EZ Pass system used in other statesto let drivers speed through toll stations while a device in the car connects with the booth electronically and charges the driver's account.

Residents also said they think its unfair that taxes paid for the 31 miles of I-540 in the northern part of the county.

They say growth should pay for itself, and in this case it is not.

Apex Chamber of Commerce Chair Bonnie Fisher, who represents 500 members, said her group is in support of the toll roads because the road is critical

Turnpike Authority officials said people will still have the option to take non-toll roads — I-40 and NC 55 — but toll roads will be faster. However, speakers at Tuesday night’s meeting who have lived in states with toll roads said there will still be backups even with electronic passes because there will always have to be a cash lane.

Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said that at this point, he is inclined to vote against the toll proposal.

“I think there are too many uncertainties for us to be able to commit at this time,” he said.


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  • runningmad May 17, 2007

    If they make this stretch a toll road, they should make the entire 540 a toll road and pay it off faster. That's the fair way to do it. Let's make North Raleigh, Brier Creek and Triangle Town Center people pay tolls.

    As the recommendation now stands the Western Wake county residents must pay a "tax" to use 540 where the Raleigh residents dont have to pay unless they come to Western Wake.

    Oh lets see how many free ways are there to get to Apex that would not use the new 540. I predict that if only a portion of 540 becomes toll then people get off at the last free exit and then begin to use alternate routes (like the current Hwy55) to go west and eliminate the toll. 540 was designed to take the load off the existing infastructure - it's not going to happen.

    Western Wake is going to be taxed without fair representation.

  • runningmad May 17, 2007

    How come Charles Meeker has a big vote and lobbys for a toll road when his city is not part of the thruway.

    The so called unbias turnpike committee was stacked with people that dont govern the western part of the county.

  • davidgnews May 16, 2007

    Growth is at rampant levels now, partially due to the Wake Commissioners and Raleigh City Council being sold out for years to developers. That's a lot of inertia to overcome.

    I personally don't think it's fair that Apex, Holly Springs, et al, should shoulder a toll burden due to the failings of others. The 'others' should be held accountable.

    Then there's DOT management.

    Now, the Turnpike Authority (created in 2002 -did they know something?) has to justify their existence. At first glance it looks like a political rewards program, and they're hiring, too, BTW.

  • 1WakeCitizen May 16, 2007

    hey SS67 - you need to watch your MOUTH! my kids, living in apex are not snotmouth as you so ingnorantly state. I'll be glad to "debate" this with you one-on-one in private.

  • cobrasdenn May 16, 2007

    As if gas prices and taxes aren't enough Now folks we are going to pay to drive on this road,, When will it stop?

  • goobnav May 16, 2007

    To the growth people, this road was planned in the mid-to-late '80's, before anything was anywhere, the money people, you voted the same people into office and they did what they have done before, what did you expect and, finally you cannot toll an existing Interstate without Congressional approval and this current Congress can care less about a toll road in NC when they have to concentrate on putting our troops in position of being politically manipulated into whatever position make them look good despite harming them and their families, get grip and take control of yours, mine, and our government and tell the lawyers to find a new career.

  • retired state trooper May 16, 2007

    Looks to me like they would have worked all this out BEFORE they started the road.

  • notthemama May 16, 2007

    A toll road? Shouldn't outsiders be the one to pay that? (no, not all you Cary people! hehehe!) I mean like put a toll on I-95 at both borders and make the drug runners pay!

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy May 16, 2007

    Love the rail IDEA.....Exactly where would I have to go, to get on that? and where would it drop me off? Raleigh wasn't originally laid out to accomodate a rail system, and even though we could ADD one, it would be many many years before ANYONE could use it.

  • NCSpeedDiva May 16, 2007

    I would welcome the road and even the toll if it makes my commute easier. It's my choice to live 25 miles from work so if I have to pay, I'm fine with that.