RALEIGH, N.C. — Commuters on the new extension of N.C. Highway 540 will have three ways to pay their fees if and when the roadway goes to tolls. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority unanimously voted Wednesday to go to a no-stop system.
"What they'll see is something that looks like an overhead sign gantry, and (they'll) just be able to drive at highway speeds, unobstructed by toll booths or anything else," said Jim Eden, the Turnpike Authority's chief operating officer.
The least-expensive option would be a transponder that is placed on a vehicle and triggers a charge to a driver's credit card account or prepaid cash account when a car passes under the toll.
Another option, Eden said, would be for drivers to register their license plates and get billed accordingly when a camera recorded their car's passage. If a vehicle is not registered, motorists would receive a mailed invoice, which would be more expensive because of the cost to track motorists.
The price of the toll would vary, depending on the option. Actual prices have not been determined.
"Tolls are a user's fee," Eden said. "It's either you pass a tax and everybody across the state pays for it … or the people who actually use the road pay for using the road."
The Turnpike Authority will work through a collections process to make sure people pay.
According to the Turnpike Authority, it is not a matter of whether the future 540 extension, The Triangle Expressway, becomes a toll road but whether the funding will come from state or private entities.
"We're looking at the first stretch of road to open by December 2010," Eden said. "And the rest would phase in after that."
Some motorists who travel along the new 540 stretch said Wednesday they prefer a cashless system compared with traditional tolls, where motorists must stop and pay with change.
"I never carry cash, for sure. I'd rather not have a cash road, because I travel it every day to get to the airport," motorist Anna Crutchley said.
"I think it's better if you keep on going," said Jo Clark, another motorist. "(It) keeps the traffic flowing."