Drivers without transponders dunned on untolled section of NC 540

Posted April 27, 2012 6:56 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2012 7:19 p.m. EDT

The Triangle Expressway in western Wake County offers two methods of toll collection.

— Although tolls won't be collected on N.C. Highway 540 until a new section of the Triangle Expressway opens in August, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority is billing drivers $5 for not using the electronic devices for collecting tolls.

Tolls are now collected only on a section of N.C. Highway 147 between Interstate 40 and N.C. 540. When N.C. 540 is extended from N.C. Highway 55 in Cary to U.S. Highway 64, tolls will start on the entire stretch of N.C. 540, including the section north of N.C. 55 to N.C. Highway 54.

Yet, the Turnpike Authority began sending letters this week to drivers who have purchased transponders for electronic collection of tolls but haven't mounted them on their windshields. The letters say the drivers are being billed $5 because the agency had to use its video toll-collection system on their vehicles.

The Triangle Expressway is designed to collect tolls either by debiting accounts linked to an N.C. QuickPass transponder or by snapping photos of license plates of vehicles without transponders and mailing monthly bills to owners.

Drivers with transponders pay a lower toll rate than those billed by mail.

“People have been purchasing transponders in order to save money while traveling on the Triangle Expressway, and we want to make sure they have their transponder mounted properly so they can receive the reduced rate," Turnpike Authority Director of Operations Barry Mickle said in a statement.

The bills are simply a reminder to drivers to put their transponders in their windshields, even if they're driving only on the untolled section of N.C. 540, officials said. That ensures the system can read the transponders correctly, and any problems can be fixed.

Transponders thought to be defective can be tested and repaired or replaced, officials said.

The Turnpike Authority will waive the $5 fee for driving on N.C. 540, as well as any charges racked up by a defective transponder, officials said.