Local News

Road improvements could mean tolling I-95

Posted March 26, 2010 2:11 p.m. EDT
Updated March 26, 2010 6:25 p.m. EDT

— The state Department of Transportation has hired two consultants to study Interstate 95 to determine what fixes are needed on the 182-mile stretch of highway and at what cost to state taxpayers.

One serious funding option, state authorities, say is tolling.

Baker Engineering and PBS&J will work together on the $6.4 million I-95 Corridor Planning & Finance Study, which DOT says will provide a master plan for future development.

The study, when completed in the fall of 2011, will include public input, address current conditions of the road and assess current and future traffic volume and other sources of funding.

"The road's been there since the 1950s, and there hasn't been major work done to it," said Robert Canales, coordinator for strategic initiatives for the DOT.

The DOT puts early estimates at $5 billion to $6 billion or more to make necessary repairs and widen the roadway.

"With the funding resources we have now, your options are limited," Canales said.

To pay for the project, one of the recommendations from a 2008 legislative transportation committee was to toll I-95.

"They looked at a lot of issues, had a lot of professionals come talk to them," Canales said. "I think their proposal carries weight when it comes to that."

I-95 is the only state interstate that has received federal approval for tolls. Other sources of funding for the improvements could include the State Highway Fund, a local-option sales tax and public-private partnerships.

Construction is already under way on the state's first toll road, which is expected to be complete in 2012.

The Triangle Expressway, an 18.8-mile stretch of roadway that will connect the Durham Freeway with N.C. Highway 540 in Wake County and extend N.C. 540 to Holly Springs.