Durham, N.C. — If you're driving on any part of the Triangle Expressway, beginning next month, prepare to pay.
The state is planning to open on Aug. 1 an additional 6-mile stretch of N.C. Highway 540, called the Western Wake Freeway, which runs from N.C. Highway 55 in Cary to U.S. Highway 64 in Apex.
Beginning Aug. 2, that will be tolled, along with the Northern Wake Expressway – an existing 2-mile stretch of N.C. 540 between N.C. Highway 54 and N.C. 55 in Wake County. Right now, it is free to ride.
Currently, only the 3.5-mile Triangle Parkway is tolled. It links Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 147 in Durham County to N.C. 540 in Wake County.
Toll rates will range from 30 cents to $5, depending on the distance traveled, type of vehicle and method of tolling.
Drivers will pay an average of 15 cents per mile, according to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.
Motorists can pay the tolls in two ways: automatically through an N.C. Quick Pass transponder placed on a vehicle's windshield or by mail after an overhead camera captures a vehicle's license plate.
The transponder is linked to a credit card or a pre-paid account, and drivers receive a monthly statement, as well as a 35 percent savings. With the alternative method, the vehicle's owner receives a monthly bill.
Patty Baker already has her N.C. Quick Pass on her car's windshield.
"I don't think anyone's happy with paying, but (the toll road) will get you where you want to go a lot quicker," she said.
"I'm very excited about it," driver Kent Shackleford said. "It'll help the congestion."
"I'll use it," said Doug Romick, who battles rush hour every day on N.C. 55. "I've already got my toll pass coming to put on the car, so I'm ready."
Construction continues on the final 8.4 miles of the Western Wake Freeway, from U.S. 64 in Apex to the N.C. 55 Bypass in Holly Springs, and that section is on course to open in January.