Needed Freeways Likely Won't Be Free

Posted January 19, 2007
Updated February 12, 2007

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— Transportation officials discussed ideas Friday for building needed roads in the Triangle faster, and two of three suggestions would require local residents to pony up the cash.

Unless there are drastic changes in the way North Carolina pays for road construction, toll plazas could be coming to new highways in the region.

A section of Interstate 540 between Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 55 is under consideration to become one of the first toll roads in the state. Backers said funds from a toll road could knock decades off the construction timetable for the rest of I-540.

"Ultimately, tolls are a use tax. Those who use the road fund the road," said Rick Weddle of the Regional Transportation Alliance. "Since progress is not optional, getting a road built in our lifetime that will improve our life patterns and our lifestyles is better than standing on principal of being against tolls."

But state Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake County, said a better option for getting more roads built would be to rework the state highway funding formula so more money goes to heavy traffic areas like the Triangle.

"If we have an alternative, I would say, 'Let's do the alternative,'" Hunt said. "We absolutely need to change that equity formula so that the money goes to urban counties as opposed to the rural counties."

The only other likely option to meet the projected $65 billion shortfall in state highway funding would be to adopt a 1-cent local-option sales tax, with all of the revenue going into a roads fund, officials said. That plan would require legislative approval.

Polls show that most local drivers don't like the idea of toll roads, but toll backers said drivers would be willing to pay the freight if faced with a choice between no road or a toll road.

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  • turnpike420 Mar 5, 2007

    Not happy about the possibility of tolls on 540? Some local concerned citizens have just launched a website dedicated to fighting tolls on 540. NO TOLLS ON 540!! is the site. Information is just now getting filled in. Please visit and let your opinions be heard. Thank you.

  • melbee Jan 29, 2007

    I think tolls/a small tax are a small price to pay when you consider the alternative... how many I-40 parking lots are we going to have to endure before new roads get built to relieve the traffic congestion?

  • LTL Jan 25, 2007

    DUMP LINDO!!!!

  • killerkestrel Jan 24, 2007

    1. Property tax does not fund the NCDOT. 2. The funding formula should not be changed. Rural areas are short of transportation funding too. 3. Yes, they need to quit raiding the Highway Fund. 4. Other states use more than just the gas tax for transportation funding. 5. Most people are paying about 2 cents a mile in gas tax. This is about $300 a year. That's even less than the car insurance! 6. At 2 cents a mile, and 70,000 cars a day, the revenue from a mile of 540 will probably be about a half a million a year per mile. This shouldn't be less than 10% of the initial outlay so that it pays for itself. This highway is going to cost more than $5 million a mile, so where is the difference going to come from? 7. A recent ASCE article says toll roads are charge about 20 cents a mile. 8. Yes, it costs a LOT to build a road. 9. Having a company do the toll road is a bad idea. A company is after profit, and I've dealt with companies trying to cheat taxpayers out of money.

  • IveGotMyOpinion Jan 22, 2007

    I'll support toll roads if the legislators and Governor stop raiding the highway fund. Nobody supports or believes in a liar. This all comes down to simple trust as far as I'm concerned. Let's do study other's toll road plans and learn from their mistakes and mis-management, set a plan for success, and go for it with transparent accounting and management. Build the roads fast, we need them now.

  • Nobody but Carolina Jan 22, 2007

    One person here mentioned reading that tolls can't be put on existing roads. That used to be the case but State Lawmakers changed that about 4 to 6 months ago. Now tolls can be put on existing roads.

  • goobnav Jan 21, 2007

    Tolls are only a good idea if you have control over those who will manage them. In our state, that will not be possible, the fact that they have raided the Highway trust fund for budget shortfalls and won't change the equity calculations to assist the areas in need as opposed to giving to areas that have little or no need for improvements. If the legislators even attempt to petition Congress to change the ruling of tolling existing highways built with federal highway funds, the federal gas tax, that just shows there lack of control to take responsibility for past mistakes. Look at I-70 in PA, one of the few interstates that still has a traffic light, several, on it. That is only because the PA Turnpike authority won't build a direct connection with their money and they won't use federal highway funds because they would have to give tolls on the entire turnpike. That type of thinking has and will happen here.

  • narck9 Jan 20, 2007

    As if we aren't already over-taxed. Now we gotta pay to drive on roads.

  • Red Jan 20, 2007

    From everything I've ever heard about tolls, every state that has put up a construction toll, with the promise to take it down when the road is paid for, has failed to do so. They always decide they like this little revenue stream and figure most people won't bother to ask when the road will be paid for and continue driving and paying well after. Like someone mentioned with the bait and switch, the new main source of money for road construction would become toll roads. And all the previous sources would be squandered elsewhere. No, I'm not a fan of toll roads for those reasons. If I knew I could trust the state to take it down later and not waste the previously earmarked, then maybe, just maybe I would drive on a toll road.
    Now if a private company, that didn't have ties to anyone in office, were to open up a private toll road, that's a different story. Their interests would lie in making money and not wasting it.

  • wjcspanteach Jan 20, 2007

    I personally support the tolls whole heartedly -- and I also agree that they should toll all of 540, and get this -- I live in North Raleigh! It isn't fair that the people in Apex and Holly Springs paid for my very nice and convenient throughway -- I should have to help them pay for theirs. And yes, I will use it frequently. People say they won't use the tolls -- but watch and see -- the next time they are stuck on 55 -- and they see that wonderful open spaced freeway -- they will most likely jump on it to save time and money. Just remember -- sitting, idling in traffic wastes more gas, and causes more pollution, then the $1.00 toll fee they could be paying.