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Mayors Ask For Toll Study For Part Of Unfinished I-540

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Late Tuesday, a group of area mayors filed a resolution with the state Turnpike Authority to look for ways to speed up completion of the I-540 outer loop.

The group says they're not toll road fans, but they're running out of options to deal with growth -- and get the highway done. Tuesday, their resolution opened the door for a study for tolls to pay for the road.

Triangle drivers cheered when the northern sections of Interstate 540 opened to traffic.

The rest of Wake County, though, still waits. The next leg of the outer loop would go from Highway 55 in Morrisville to Highway 55 in Holly Springs.

By some estimates, rising construction costs and shrinking road dollars now push the Western Wake expressway completion date to 2022.

"They don't want to be second class citizens, I guess is one way to put it, " said Mayor Dick Sears of Holly Springs. "And we just want to get the dang thing done."

So, Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears signed this resolution along with four other southwest Wake leaders and the Regional Transportation Alliance. They're calling on the Turnpike Authority to study the possibility of toll roads to speed up the process.

"It's only a study and it was reluctantly agreed to by all the mayors that we talked to," Sears said.

Turnpike Authority Executive Director David Joyner said tolls could shave 10 years or more off the project.

"...the whole idea is you could have it maybe in five years, project complete," Joyner said.

If southwest leaders eventually buy into the idea, they still question fairness. Drivers cruise for free on the northern section of 540. Legislators would have to change state law to set up tolls on an existing road.

"The mayors, including myself, are not terribly excited about having a toll road on the southern loop only," Sears said.

The southern leg from Holly Springs, through Garner to the 64 bypass will also be part of the toll road study.

The best-case scenarios put completion around 2032 for that part of the loop. Turnpike estimates indicate toll roads could cut 15 years off that.

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