Local News

Committee Report Recommends Toll Roads For I-540

Posted June 1, 2006 8:09 a.m. EDT

— Toll roads on the newest part of Interstate 540 could be a solution to help Wake County's booming population growth, according to a Blue Ribbon Committee report draft released earlier this week.

The committee held a work session on Thursday to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their final draft report, which suggests putting tolls on the southern part of Interstate 540, which runs through Holly Springs, to pay for roads in the county.

The report, itself, examines the county's infrastructure needs in anticipation for a 1.4-million population estimate by 2030.

"Just as you see the school overcrowding, you're going to see transportation overcrowding," said Joe Milazzo II, with the Regional Transportation Alliance.

As it stands, state law prohibits placing tolls on existing roadways. That is why the northern part of I-540 would not have them.

Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears said he believes the town could go along with the committee's recommendation if it means 10-20 years off of the total construction time of the rest of the interstate.

But some drivers still are not for a toll road.

"I would probably try to find another way, if I could, rather than trying to pay extra -- what really amounts to an additional tax," said motorist Greg Gulley.

Increasing the gas tax or getting more back from what is already paid is another recommendation of the committee. County leaders say only about half of what residents spend actually helps pay for county roads.

"That would be part of our legislative agenda, to work with our local delegation to try to get the Legislature to allow our gas taxes to come back to Wake County," Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley said.

Until then, the toll roads are a serious consideration, not only to pay for road construction, but also to get them built much faster.

"It's not fair that the southern loop of 540 would be a toll road and the northern loop not," Gurley said. "But if that allows us to build it 10 years earlier, that might be a choice we have to make."