Apex, N.C. — North Carolina's first toll road cost more than $1 billion to build, yet there are times when no one is using it.
The 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway, which runs from Durham to Holly Springs, was completed in late December in an effort to improve access and reduce congestion between western Wake County and the Research Triangle Park.
Tolling on the final 8.75-mile stretch, which connects U.S. Highway 64 in Apex to the N.C. Highway 55 Bypass in Holly Springs, began in January.
John Talbot uses the road mid-morning a few times a month and says it's common for him to see only a few vehicles on it.
John Breedlove, director of Turnpike Operations at the North Carolina Department of Transportation, says that's because the final stretch is primarily a commuter road, making traffic on it light for much of the day.
Actually, Breedlove says, traffic has surpassed expectations, having doubled projected monthly numbers, and revenue has grown steadily each month since all three sections of the Triangle Expressway have been open.
In May alone, the DOT says, it brought in more than $1.5 million in revenue.
Breedlove says the road is paying for itself, and he expects it to become even busier over the next 10 to 15 years.
"As the economy picks up and traffic picks up, people will be using the Triangle Expressway as an alternate means of getting to work quicker and to get home quicker," Breedlove said.
At its busiest section, around the N.C. Highway 147 interchange near RTP, the Triangle Expressway sees about 25,000 vehicles daily.
In addition, the DOT says about 80,000 drivers now have transponders to take advantage of electronic tolling on the road.