New 'N.C. 540' Likely to Open for RTP Access Next Week

Posted July 5, 2007
Updated July 7, 2007

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— The newest section of Interstate 540 loop is expected to open by late next week, highway engineers said Thursday – but not by that name.

Contractors have been working on the $102 million, 4.5-mile stretch of highway since February 2004. Stretching south from I-40 to N.C. 55, the road will go by the handle "N.C. 540."

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority asked the state Department of Transportation not to call the new section an "interstate" because they hope to open the proposed Triangle Expressway in a few years as a toll road. The toll road would overlap N.C. 540 between N.C. 54 and N.C. 55.

Area drivers said they were eagerly awaiting the new section of N.C. 540, which is expected to alleviate some morning congestion on I-40. Tens of thousands of cars now squeeze into one lane on I-540 every morning in order to enter I-40.

"It happens all the time. It's very frustrating, very frustrating. Hopefully, they'll have it all resolved very soon," driver Karen Bigler said.

The new highway will have interchanges at N.C. 54, Davis Drive and N.C. 55, creating three more ways for motorists to access Research Triangle Park without mixing with traffic on I-40.

DOT engineers were conducting a final inspection of the new highway Thursday morning, including measuring the height of guardrails and ensuring reflectors were properly glued into the pavement.

"We (will) generate a list for the contractor to complete the final items on the project," DOT engineer Phillip Johnson said. "It's looking real good. We've got some things to do, some minor cleanup, some drainage issues, but nothing major."

Engineers said they expect to open the highway between Thursday and Saturday of next week.


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  • turnpike420 Jul 8, 2007

    Transp. Eng: I think you missunderstood me a bit on where collected toll money goes. If roads such as I95, I77 or even I85 were tolled at the borders to let through traffic pay for those roads, great, they could very well become self sufficient. This means funding that the NCDOT would have originally budgeted for those roads can now be put to other projects since the toll money is taking care of those roads. Plus, US Code Title 23 Section 129 says you can't use toll revenue on other roads if tolling agreements are reached with the Feds (which would be required for tolling an already existing Interstate, so if there were tolls on 95/77/85, those tolls would have to be used on those roads only. :)

  • wayne1961 Jul 7, 2007

    go panthers, $10 per resident is way low to avoid tolls. You would have to collect over $1000 per Wake County resident to pay for Western Wake.$800,000,000/786,522 (2006 Wake Co. pop.)= over $1000/person.

    turnpike420, I don't know what the toll folks have studied.

    I would support tolling an existing road, like I-95, for the improvement/widening of that road only (I-95 needs to be widened to 8 lanes for $4B).

    However, I would not support tolling a road and sending those toll monies to other areas of the state. Should the folks that live in NC and travel to VA to work using I-95 have their toll $$ sent to Raleigh or Charlotte? On the flip side, should the tolls of 540 be sent to another area of the state? I know there would be a lot of opposition of diverting tolls to other areas of the state. Rural areas sending money to urban areas? I just don't see it happening politically. Tolling out of state residents always seems attractive.

    I don't like the 540 name change either.

  • wayne1961 Jul 7, 2007

    turnpike420, I have a small SUV. My point is that as cars become more and more fuel efficient, there are less gas taxes rolling in to make up for inflation. A Hybrid going 60 miles per gallon takes up practically as much place on the road as a Hummer getting 10 mpg. Who pays more in gas taxes to go the same distance?

    I have no problem with your suggestion of using fines like Virginia. However how are you going to get around the local school system lobby? From the court of appeals: The school systems effectively shut down the red light camera program recently in North Carolina by demanding 90% of the fines. Cities such as High Point would have lost money running the cameras and giving the school system 90% of the fine. You would have to change the law that says 90% of all fines must go to the school system, and with as powerful as the school folks are in this state, I just don't see it happening.

  • turnpike420 Jul 7, 2007

    Transp. Eng: careful, I drive a Hybrid SUV, I get 30 mpg, granted those Suburban drivers who get 14-18 are your target, don't stereotype all SUVs.

    I represent No Tolls on 540 and you want alternatives to raise money? OK. Let's look to our northern neighbor Virginia: They are going to levy LARGE civil fees and penalties to people who break traffic laws. Let the speeders and drunk drivers pick up the tab. Side effect, safer roads due to more people deciding to drive safe than pay. Also, why hasn't the NCTA looked into tolling I95, I77, I85 at the borders with VA and SC? The impact is small, only to those who live and work on opposite sides of the border. Let through traffic pay for those roads, why? If tolls pays for those roads, then other funding can be directed at local projects, such as 540, 840, 140, 285, 485, 785, 274, etc. Also, the I540 name change to NC540 is absurd!

  • wayne1961 Jul 6, 2007

    I'd like to correct my error in my earlier post. $800,000,000 (not $800,000) is needed for Western Wake the last I heard.

    Boy, I wish it were only $800,000.....

  • wayne1961 Jul 6, 2007

    "why don't we toll I-540 or I-95". State Law will not allow tolls on existing roads (outside that little stretch of the loop).

    "We pay enough taxes" Hey, I agree. I don't want to pay more taxes either. But NOBODY on this message board has put a credible and workable solution to the road funding crisis in the triangle. If there was one, don't you think it would be in place right now?

    $800,000 is needed for Western Wake Freeway. Given current funding levels, it would be funded in about 25-30 years, if it would be built at all. The Triangle is BILLIONS short in road money due to its explosive growth.

    Changing the Transportation Improvment Program Equity Formula to steer more $$ to the Triangle isn't enough.
    Impact fees aren't enough.
    Toll roads aren't enough (new roads with lots of traffic will only qualify as a toll road, a 2 lane connector road or a simple widening will not pay for itself through tolls)

    Reasonable solutions for the road crisis anyone?

  • wayne1961 Jul 6, 2007

    For the record, I'm in favor of toll roads. Most of money that pays for our roads comes from gas taxes. Well guess what, that money has been pretty flat for the last few years, meaning it isn't going up that much. For those of you trading in your SUVs for cars that get better gas mileage, you are paying less in gas taxes for riding the same roads!

    Inflation has been eating up road building money. 15% per year for a few years because of the price of oil. Imagine your own family budget not increasing, but your expenses going up by about 50% over the past 3 years. You would have to have big money problems. This isn't DOT's fault or mismanagement.

    Toll roads are practically the only short term solution to our road funding crisis. Other posters are upset over paying for tolls, but guess what, you don't have to drive the road. NC State Law states you must have a free alternative. In fact, toll roads will help the free drivers also by reducing congestion on "free" roads.

  • A_News_Observer Jul 6, 2007

    If you don't want to pay for the road you shouldn't have to. If I don't want to pay for public schools I shouldn't have to. If someone doesn't want to pay for the military they shouldn't have to.

    What do these ideas have in common? They're all stupid...

  • gopanthers Jul 6, 2007

    Why don't they just collect 5 or maybef $10.00 from every citizen and just be done with this toll issue.

  • magnus Jul 6, 2007

    I don't like being lied to by the government and being asked to pay twice for the same road. In better days, the politicians behind this would be tarred and feathered! Shame!