RALEIGH, N.C. — The debate rolls on as state lawmakers consider a budget that includes funding for what would be the Triangle’s first toll road.
N.C. Turnpike Authority officials said the agency is depending on $20 million in gap funding from the state to build the Triangle Expressway in western Wake County. The proposed expressway would run from the Durham Freeway through Research Triangle Park to Interstate 540.
Gap funding covers the difference between road costs and toll revenues.
“Without the gap funding, the project certainly is in question,” said Steve DeWitt with the Turnpike Authority.
“There are other ways to do it, although they’re not quite as palatable. Private market, through a public-private partnership, is an option. It's not the best option for this state, but it is an option,” said DeWitt.
State Sen. Neal Hunt, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the committee is still undecided on gap funding, although state lawmakers hope to settle the issue by July 16.
“If they do have the gap funding for the toll road, it will come from general revenues and will be in the budget. But bottom line is we won’t know until we see it,” said Hunt, R-Wake County.
If the General Assembly approves the gap funding, the Triangle Expressway would become the state’s first toll road in around a hundred years.
The state’s first toll road was a turnpike built in Lenoir County in the early 1900s. The term ‘turnpike’ originated from the piece of wood that the operator would turn up to allow travelers to continue on the road.
“The toll, whatever it was, would often depend on how he (the turnpike operator) felt that day,” said DeWitt.
The decision on whether toll roads will return to North Carolina rests with the House and Senate Conference Committee.