Testing under way on N.C. toll road cameras

Posted May 17, 2010 7:24 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2010 7:37 p.m. EDT

— The state has started testing traffic cameras on the N.C. Highway/Interstate 540 corridor that will eventually be used to help collect tolls on the state's first toll road.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority said Monday that the cameras use infrared and visible light technology to record images, and, through a process known as optical character recognition, can automatically identify the characters on license plates.

Two cameras have been installed on N.C. Highway 540 East between N.C. Highway 54 and Interstate 40, and a third has been installed on Interstate 540 West between U.S. Highway 70 and Aviation Parkway.

A fourth camera will be installed at a third location within the next few weeks, the Turnpike Authority said.

The recorded images will help optimize the optical character recognition process and configure the cameras to accurately identify license plate numbers. They will not be used to bill motorists or for any other purposes, the Turnpike Authority said.

The temporary cameras are expected to remain in operation until the Triangle Expressway opens in late 2011. Once the road is open to traffic, permanent cameras on the toll road will capture license plate numbers for billing purposes.

When complete in 2012, the three-part, 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway will stretch from the N.C. 55 Bypass near Holly Springs to Interstate 40 at N.C. 147 in Wake and Durham counties.

The first section – N.C. 540 between N.C. Highway 54 in Morrisville and N.C. Highway 55 near Research Triangle Park – opened two years ago, and drivers have been using it toll-free since then.

The second section, a 3.4-mile stretch called the Triangle Parkway, will open next year and run from N.C. Highway 147 in Durham to N.C. 540 in Morrisville.

The 12.6-mile Western Wake Freeway, the third part of the Triangle Expressway, is expected to be complete in 2012 and will run from N.C. 55 in Cary to N.C. 55 in Holly Springs.

Drivers will also have the option of purchasing a small transponder that will be used to collect the tolls electronically.