Traffic

As Stretch of I-540 Opens, Tolls Loom Over Future Segments

Posted January 16, 2007 7:54 a.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2007 9:40 p.m. EST

— A new section of Interstate 540 opened Tuesday, linking Capital Boulevard at Triangle Town Center in Raleigh to the U.S. Highway 64 Bypass in Knightdale.

State Department of Transportation officials and Wake County politicians cut a ribbon on the highway Tuesday morning, about nine months after the $114 million, nine-mile stretch was supposed to open. Engineers said environmental concerns were the primary reason for the delay.

New interchanges with I-540 opened at U.S. Highway 401, Buffaloe Road, U.S. Highway 64 Business and U.S. 64 Bypass.

I-540 now stretches 26 miles, from I-40 near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, across north Raleigh to Knightdale. A section south from I-40 to N.C. Highway 55 south of research Triangle Park is expected to open in August.

Secretary of Transportation Lyndo Tippett said tolls will play a major role in financing the rest of I-540 across southern Wake County.

"With inflation, our funds have been exhausted. To build a mile of (six-lane, divided) highway such as this is now approaching $50 million," Tippett said. "We are looking at (tolls) as a method of building most highways in the future."

The southern and eastern portions of the I-540 loop are planned, but not funded. The southeastern leg between I-40 and U.S. 64 Bypass is the big question mark. The state doesn't even own the land in the corridor.

"Unfortunately, it appears (tolls are) the only source of funding that's acceptable," Tippett said.