More toll roads in N.C.'s future?

Posted November 7, 2008 5:33 p.m. EST
Updated November 8, 2008 9:04 a.m. EST

— Lifting the state's gas-tax cap and increasing vehicle registration fees are two of a number of options on the table to help generate $1 billion in funding over the next 10 years for state roads.

Another option the General Assembly could consider when it receives recommendations from the North Carolina 21st Century Transportation Committee next month is putting tolls on some of the state's major highways, including Interstates 95, 77, 40 and 85.

Earlier this week, the committee discussed a border-to-border toll on I-95 to support 180 miles of widening by an additional two lanes in each direction. The cost would be about $6 billion.

"No one can see $6 billion flowing into the transportation coffers in the short-term," said Brad Wilson, who chairs the committee. "So, that leads us to the conclusion that tolling must seriously be considered."

Tolls on I-77 from the South Carolina border to I-40 in Statesville would bring more than $1 billion to widen the roadway to two lanes in each direction.

And funds generated from tolls on other highways would go only for improvements on those highways.

Wilson said Triangle motorists would not necessarily feel the impact on their highways, because the tolls would be located at the state line to capture out-of-state motorists.

Some in-state drivers are cautiously open to the idea.

"Well, basically, I don't like toll roads, but that would be a way of letting the people who use it pay for it," said motorist Don Ledford.

The state, however, must get permission from the federal government before charging interstate drivers.

I-95 is the only interstate that has received approval for tolls.

North Carolina could open its first toll road as early as 2011. The Triangle Expressway would connect the Durham Freeway with the existing part of N.C. 540, then extend 540 to Holly Springs.