State's first toll highway finally reaches beginning of road

Posted August 12, 2009

— The North Carolina Turnpike Authority broke ground Wednesday morning on what will become the state's first toll road.

The $1 billion Triangle Expressway will stretch almost 19 miles, from the intersection of the Durham Freeway and Interstate 40 to N.C. Highway 55 in Holly Springs. Construction is expected to begin in the next few days and last two to three years.

"This is a promising new beginning of the way transportation is going to be done in the future," Fourth District Congressman David Price said.

N.C. Highway 540 Officials break ground on N.C.'s first toll road

Turnpike Authority officials estimate the cost for driving on the toll road will range from 14 to 30 cents a mile, depending on how drivers pay for it. Previous estimates had the range from 14 to 42 cents a mile.

The electronic toll system will require no stopping. The cheapest way to pay is by attaching a transponder to the windshield, allowing the system to deduct money automatically from a prepaid account.

"The transponder, we think, will (cost drivers) south of 15 cents a mile," said David Joyner, executive director of the Turnpike Authority.

Drivers who don't use a transponder will pay more, he said. The authority will set up video cameras to capture images of license plates passing through a toll area, and they will mail bills to the owners of vehicles without transponders.

For drivers who don't want to pay at all, N.C. 55 will remain a free option for traversing western Wake County.

"It can take a long time even during non-(rush) hours to get from Point A to Point B, and I think the (toll road) will help immensely," Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears said.

The first section of the Triangle Expressway – N.C. Highway 540 between N.C. Highway 54 in Morrisville and N.C. 55 near Research Triangle Park – opened two years ago, and drivers have been using it toll-free since then.

The second section, the 3.4-mile Triangle Parkway from I-40 and the Durham Freeway to N.C. 540 is expected to open in 2011. The final section, the 12.6-mile Western Wake Freeway from N.C. 55 in Cary to N.C. 55 in Holly Springs is expected to open the following year.

State Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said there are no plans to charge tolls on the section of Interstate 540 that stretches arcs north around Raleigh from I-40 at the Wake-Durham county line to U.S. Highway 64 Bypass east of the city.

"I don't think that's going to be the kind of direction we're going to go in at all," Conti said.

The Triangle Expressway should cut 20 to 25 minutes off the average commute time between Holly Springs and RTP, officials said,  and they added that, without tolls to pay the way, the road wouldn't have been built for years because of limited state funding. Still, Conti said the state will carefully choose where to construct toll roads in the future.

"We're not going to implement toll roads all over North Carolina in the next five years, but we do think it makes sense in areas where we have high congestion," he said.

The remaining section of the I-540/N.C. 540 loop around Raleigh, stretching east from Holly Springs across Garner to the U.S. 64 Bypass is scheduled for completion by 2025 as a toll road.

The state is also looking into the possibility of turning Interstate 95 into a toll road, with revenues paying for improvements.

Conti said it's too soon for specific details, but the state Department of Transportation expects to receive reports from two consulting firms next summer.

North Carolina already has four other toll road projects in the planning stages: three highways and one bridge.

Funding for the Triangle Expressway project was secured through a $386 million federal loan and $624 million in bonds that will be repaid with toll revenues.

Conti estimated the project would create or preserve 30,000 jobs.

Officials with Wilson-based S.T. Wooten Corp., which was awarded a $135.4 million contract to build the Triangle Parkway, said they plan to rehire former employees. The company has had to lay off about 200 people because of the economy.

"We will bring a lot of our own people back to work first. Some have been out as long as a year," company Vice President Jonathan Bivens said. "Then, we'll make the determination of how many more we need to hire."

S.T. Wooten has hired subcontractor RK&K to do design work on the project. Tommy Peacock of RK&K said that, in the current economy, maintaining jobs is as important as creating them.

"(The toll road project) is going to have a big impact on our people and our staff," Peacock said. "It's going to keep a lot of people busy for the next couple of years.

"We have about 50 people in our Raleigh office," he added. "Most everybody will be involved in the design of this project."


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  • JOBMO Aug 14, 2009

    "When are they going to widen I40 between Durham and Raleigh...This needs lots of attention."


    They've already done it twice. They went from 2 lanes each way to three and later they went to four in some places.

  • me2you Aug 13, 2009

    When are they going to widen I40 between Durham and Raleigh...This needs lots of attention.

  • JOBMO Aug 13, 2009

    I must admitt I'm somewhat amused by all the people vowing to avoid driving on a toll road all all cost. My wife and I had the exact same mentality when we first moved to Tampa. It lasted about 6 months.

    If they do this tool road thing right, then trust me when I say that after a while you will decide it's worth sucking it up and paying the $1.50-2.00 to use the toll road if it gets you where you're going 20-30 miutes faster. We Americans are impaitent people and that's how you get sucked in. :-)

    Of course the fact that we have no State Income tax in FL makes it a little easier to swallow the whole idea of toll roads as well.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 13, 2009

    "This is a promising new beginning of the way transportation is going to be done in the future," Fourth District Congressman David Price said."

    Translation, the Democrats are happy they have found another way to tax the public through tolls on new highways that should have been paid for by the gas taxes collected in North Carolina.

    Seeing that North Carolina has one of the highest gas taxes in the country, it's an insult to the people of North Carolina to have to pay tolls in addition to the gas tax.

    If the government wasn't misappropriating the gas tax revenue to fund non-highway related programs, we wouldn't need the tolls to build I-540 from Morrisville to Holly Springs.

    Seeing that the locals will most likely boycott the toll road, the state will have to raise taxes to pay off the bonds that were used to build the toll road.

    The state will get their money, one way or the other.

  • KermitDFrog Aug 13, 2009

    The state still needs to buy the land... I wish I was a landowner since they are prepared to offer over 10x the current value (per acre). It must be nice to throw away the public's money.

  • horsewhspers Aug 12, 2009

    I thought the reason that our State Gas Tax was so high was to avoid having to pay Tolls? At least that was the *story* when they were raising the State Gas Tax to one of the highest in the Country...

  • rlwieland Aug 12, 2009

    Just more taxes. They talk as if this is a good idea. We will end up with tolls all over the place before it's over, but the ones that voted for it, the elected officials will most likely have passes so they don't have to pay. All I can say is vote out the bums.

  • beachboater Aug 12, 2009

    This "project" is suppoed to create or preserve 30,000 jobs, yet S.T. Wooten says it will only 200 people. What are the other 29,800 jobs for? I mean 200 to do the project, but 29,800 other jobs?

    And we are supposed to believe this stuff.

  • beachboater Aug 12, 2009

    "This place is becoming more and more like New York every day" Continuityman, Wake county on it's finest day is not a pimple on the butt of NYC. Blues Man Z August 12, 2009 11:05 a.m

    Sir, it sounds like it's time for you to move to a colder climate.

  • jet2rdu Aug 12, 2009

    The plan is to end the tolls and make the road free when the road is paid for. Right. The same promises were made for both the Holland Tunnel linking NJ and NY and the NJ Turnpike. Don't put your bets or hopes on this ever going to happen here.