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540 toll-road plan goes through in state budget vote

Posted June 4, 2008
Updated June 5, 2008

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— Traffic congestion relief may come sooner for motorists who travel along N.C. Highway 540, but it is not going to be free.

“It's really hectic this time of day and congested and kind of frustrating,” driver Suzanne Bruen said.

“It's just one of those things you come to live with because you don't have another choice,” driver Celeana Garrett said.

As part of its 2008-09 state budget, the House on Wednesday approved a phase-out of the $172 million transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority would be given $25 million a year, for 39 years, to build the rest of 540, known as the Triangle Expressway.

The Wednesday vote was the first of two required to pass the spending plan. A second vote on Thursday also passed.

“We're very optimistic. We're very hopeful,” said David Joyner, the Turnpike Authority executive director.

If the funding is in the budget version approved by the Senate, Joyner said, construction should begin sometime this year. However, state funding only covers a portion of the cost, and the authority will build the rest of 540 as a toll road.

“Don't like it. I'm from New York. Know all about the tolls. Moved away from New York because of higher prices. That's not something I'm looking forward to,” Garrett said.

Joyner said that whether drivers are sitting in traffic or using a toll road, they pay a price.

“We can get the project done years, decades sooner than we'd be able to do it if we had to wait till we had all the money in the bank. That's the secret to all of this,” Joyner added.

The 540 toll would be a cashless system that gives commuters several options to pay without their having to stop.

One of those choices, at a cost of approximately 14 cents a mile, would be a vehicle transponder that responds to infrared signals at the toll area. A computer system would deduct money from a commuter's prepaid account.

Transponders would cost $8 to $20 and would be available online, at stores or at area kiosks.

Another option, at about 28 cents a mile, would be for drivers to register their license plates and get billed when a video camera records their cars' passage.

If a vehicle is not registered, motorists would receive a mailed invoice at a cost closer to 42 cents per mile.

The cost of the entire Triangle Expressway is an estimated $1 billion.

147 Comments

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  • WRAL is joe_dirt Jun 5, 2008

    This would be just like marrying a prostitute and still having to pay for "it"

  • busyb97 Jun 5, 2008

    That $1 billion estimate to build the toll is in 2008 figures. What do you think it will actually cost by the time they get done?? I'd wager alot more than $1 billion with rising costs, etc. I wonder how much they do their homework before deciding on some of these numbers - compare other metro areas with tolls and how it works and doesn't work, what they charge and people are willing to pay for the convenience.

  • busyb97 Jun 5, 2008

    14 cents a mile is OUTRAGEOUS!! You can drive the entire WV Turnpike for $3.75. 10 miles on 540 will cost you $1.40!? Not even Chicago has that high of rates unless you are passing through and paying cash maybe. All this will accomplish is putting the congestion back in I-40 and the other highways again, because drivers are going to (and SHOULD) refuse to pay that high of a price! I don't know if a toll is the way to go- but not 14 cents a mile!! And you know, once they get their hooks into you, it will STAY that high or go higher. It would never be 'temporary'. Unreal.

  • Zach1 Jun 5, 2008

    Why not make Toll Brothers and other BUILDERS that are PUBLICLY TRADED ON WALL STREET pay for this road, since they are the ones who will reap huge amounts of money from it at the expense of North Carolinians?

  • Zach1 Jun 5, 2008

    Read my lips. NO TOLL ROADS!! Was that so hard?

  • turnpike420 Jun 5, 2008

    PC is for Losers - the principles they are trying to set here are far worse than "we might have to pay a toll, quit crying". It has far reaching implications to NC roads and our future as a growing state. Check out http://www.notollson540.org/whynotolls.php for more info.

  • turnpike420 Jun 5, 2008

    bendal - it's not about doubling the federal or state gas taxes... it's where those funds are distributed... see my post about the "equity plan". :) when you have nicer roads for cows than people, we have a serious money distribution problem in NC. It's not just a funding issue. I'm glad to see you are open to other ideas to prevent roads being built with tolls! As you may also know, NC is a donor state. It means we give money to the Federal highway funds and in turn we are supposed to get $0.92 back per dollar. NCTA powerpoint slides show we are getting $0.88 or less. So the Feds are doing their part to hurt us as well.

    And some politicians view that a Federal gas tax holiday is a good idea... BAD. Have you seen the commercial on TV where the guy sticks his gum in a small dam leak, it pops out and the leak is worse? That's the same as the refund check many of us got... just a bad bandaid.

  • PC is for Losers Jun 5, 2008

    It's just a great idea. If the road is built, and you want to use the road (which you will) then pay a little for the road. You won't be force fed the toll...they aren't going to close the other roads. Quit cryin'.

  • turnpike420 Jun 5, 2008

    http://www.notollson540.org - There may have been a vote, but the decision is not final. Do you really want your tax dollars funding the construction of a toll road? That's what this vote is for! Due to the "equity plan" in NC, the rural Legislators of NC are hurting urban growth. They have immaculate 4 lane highways where there are more cows than people per square mile. The money used on those projects is a waste and could have better served urban growth.

    All the NCTA can say is "toll road or no road". But as mentioned above, changing that could fix 1 of the MANY problems troubling transportation funding. How everyone reading this can agree with the toll road or no road philosophy has already drunk the bad coolaid.

    Write your Legislators: http://www.notollson540.org/whatcanido.php and tell them to vote NO to toll roads, throw out the equity plan and spend the money where it is truly needed.

  • now Jun 5, 2008

    There would be good jobs where they came from if they quit electing Liberal tax and spend and eliminate freedom polititians and messing everything up and chasing jobs and people out of there.

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