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Lack of State Money No Barrier to Toll Road Planning

Posted October 17, 2007 2:20 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2007 9:29 p.m. EDT

— Even without state funding, officials continue to plan for toll roads in North Carolina.

"We're hopeful that we'll get some money in the short session of the General Assembly in the spring," said David Joyner, executive director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. "This state and every other state is suffering financially. We don't have the financing needed to build these very expensive (highway) projects, and so tolling can help in very strategic areas."

The agency is considering several highway projects statewide as possible toll roads, including the Triangle Expressway, which would link the Durham Freeway and Interstate 40 with N.C. Highways 540 and 55 south of Apex.

The state Senate two months ago put the brakes on $20 million in funding for the Turnpike Authority. But officials said they have received offers from 14 private contractors to build toll roads and might continue with a public-private plan if state money doesn't come through.

"Not having the funding, the biggest impact is not knowing what project is going to go live first," said James Eden, chief operating officer of the Turnpike Authority.

Meanwhile, a company that operates electronic toll collections across the Northeast expects tolls roads to open in North Carolina eventually and wants the state's business.

E-ZPass operates in 10 states from Maine to Virginia and in Indiana and Illinois. The company uses transponders inside vehicles to record when they pass through toll plazas and deducts money from accounts that pass-holders have set up.

"We think there's a natural connection between North Carolina and the traveling public in the Northeast," said E-ZPass Executive Director James Crawford said. "It is a way to quickly pay your tolls without having to fumble for any change, without having to wait in a long queue."