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Only on WRAL: A tour of the progress so far building NC 540 toll road

Posted July 23, 2021 6:18 p.m. EDT
Updated July 26, 2021 6:36 p.m. EDT

— Engineers told WRAL News they made the most progress on the N.C. Highway 540 project this spring, since breaking ground in November 2019.

Construction is more than a third of the way done on the first phase of the decades-long -- and sometimes controversial -- project to complete the outer loop around Raleigh.

This $1.3 billion extension of the toll road will connect Apex to Garner.

Construction is now 35% done on the phase from the N.C. highway 55 Bypass in Apex to Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70 in Garner, engineers said. It's expected to open in 2023.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority estimates this toll road will carry 60,000 cars each day.

WRAL News toured the construction with Dennis Jernigan and Robby Hoffman, two engineers on the project, which will eventually complete a new six-lane expressway loop around Raleigh.

About 600 workers toil away on the project each day.

On Friday, crews tested the strength of concrete to pour into a box culvert for a creek.

One of the expressway's 52 bridges will fly above it. The culverts will carry streams beneath many of the future expressway's bridges.

"After the bridges are constructed, there will be a lot of earthwork operations and then within a year or so of that is when you’ll see a lot of the pavement going down," Jernigan said.

Flying above in Sky 5 shows that earthwork digging a route for the road between neighborhoods in Holly Springs.

Hoffman said the project team is working with the community to keep them up to speed on construction coming through.

"We’re trying to be good neighbors with everything going on out here and keep in mind that these people do have lives outside just us building this project," Hoffman said.

About half of the 52 bridges are under construction now, including one over Fanny Brown Road near Garner.

Thirty-seven acres of pavement will wind drivers through the "turbine interchange" with I-40 and U.S. 70.

Engineers compare it to a roundabout, and it'll the first of its kind in the Triangle.

"It’s very unique and we feel like it’s going to be really effective for handling the high volume of traffic we’re going to see at this location," Hoffman said.

Engineers said the final phase to close the gap from I-40 to U.S. Highway 64 in Knightdale should begin in 2026.

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