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Area Mayor Proposes Adding Tolls To Northern Part Of I-540

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Wake County mayor says tolls on Interstate 540 are just plain necessary, and everyone ought to bear the burden of getting the road finished and paid off.

Mayors in southern Wake County towns, including Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears, have already agreed to a proposal to put tolls on the western and southern part of the I-540 loop because it will get the road built two to three times faster.

Now, Sears wants to take it one step further. He's proposing putting tolls on the entire loop.

"Toll roads are a pain," said Sears. "But if that's the best answer we have, which it is, than I'm going to support this project to get this project moving, because we have to get the roads built. It's just that simple."

Last month, Gov. Mike Easley signed a bill into law to allow tolls to be placed on existing roads. Sears said that opens the door to putting tolls on all of I-540, not just certain sections of it.

"We in the south from our taxes have paid for the north part of the loop," said Sears. "Let's ask them to help pay for our part of the loop in the south by tolling the existing roads."

That way, Sears said, construction could start sooner and the roads would be paid off faster. However, mayors in the north, like Wake Forest's Vivian Jones, said it's a new idea that complicates an already complicated issue.

"I'm not immediately opposed to it, but I really don't embrace it either," said Jones. "I'm certainly willing to talk about it. This is a regional problem and we need to work on it in a regional way."

There has already been talk about possibly placing tollbooths on a three-mile stretch of I-540 between Research Triangle Park and Morrisville. By law, once the loop is completely paid off, the tollbooths have to come down.


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