Budget bill fuels Turnpike Authority's plans for Triangle toll road

Posted July 8, 2008 7:30 p.m. EDT

— One line in the budget approved Tuesday by the General Assembly could make toll roads a reality.

The $21 billion spending plan includes $25 million a year for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority’s Triangle Expressway project, which would be the state's first toll road and would open by 2010.

The toll road is supposed to connect N.C. Highway 147 to N.C. Highway 540 and extend 540 to Holly Springs.

David Joyner, Turnpike Authority executive director, said Tuesday that a contract for the 18-mile project should be awarded by October and construction should be under way by year’s end.

The technology that the authority plans to use for toll-collection requires no cash and no stopping. There would be no toll booths, just an overhead gantry with receivers to collect each vehicle’s information.

For westbound traffic on existing 540, the first toll gantry would be just past N.C. Highway 54 near the Davis Drive exit.

Coming from Holly Springs, the authority expects the toll road to save drivers up to 20 minutes per trip.

That adds up, Joyner said to “10,000 minutes a year or seven full days that you can buy back to your life by taking this road.”

Driver Jonathan Philpot figures time is money.

“It's a whole lot easier than trucking your way through all the different streets and roads and stuff,” Philpot said.

James Walker, another motorist says no. It would be, he said, “just not worth it for me.”

He prefers N.C. 55 – the free alternative that runs parallel to the toll road.

With congestion on Triangle highways expected only to worsen, state legislators say they are helping to fund the 540 toll road because, otherwise, this project would not get built for decades.

The authority is supposed to take down the tolls when the debt is paid off.