Cary, N.C. — A 6-mile stretch of N.C. Highway 540, which runs from N.C. Highway 55 in Cary to U.S. Highway 64 in Apex, opened Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.
Drivers got a free ride along the new stretch of road, which is three lanes in both directions, throughout the day Wednesday.
Beginning Thursday, the stretch of road, called the Western Wake Freeway will be tolled, along with the Northern Wake Expressway – the existing stretch of N.C. 540 between N.C. Highway 54 and N.C. 55 in Cary.
Toll rates will range from 30 cents to $5, depending on the distance traveled, type of vehicle and method of tolling. According to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, drivers will pay an average of 15 cents per mile.
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.
"By itself, it provides better mobility in RTP directly, but we expect the ridership to really take off once we open a piece of 540 here," said Jason Peterson with the N.C. Turnpike Authority.
Patty Baker said in July that she already had her N.C. Quick Pass on her car's windshield.
"I don't think anyone is happy with paying, but the (toll road) will get you where you want to go a lot quicker," she said. "If I'm going in a direction where I can take it, I'll get on."
Driver Kent Shackleford echoed those sentiments, saying the new stretch of the Triangle Parkway will "help relieve congestion."
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.