NC toll road construction ahead of schedule

Posted December 21, 2010 6:36 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2010 7:29 p.m. EST

— The state’s first toll road is under budget by tens of millions of dollars and ahead of schedule, North Carolina Turnpike Authority officials said Monday.

Pavement is already going down and bridges are going up on part of the 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway.

The first section called the Northern Wake Expressway – N.C. 540 between N.C. Highway 54 in Morrisville and N.C. Highway 55 near Research Triangle Park – opened two years ago and has been toll-free since it opened.

But drivers traveling in the area will see concrete columns going up that will eventually be part of a cashless toll collection system that utilizes some of the latest technology to charge motorists.

“(It will be) totally open-road tolling, all high-speed,” Steve Dewitt, with the Turnpike Authority, said. “You’d never have to slow down. You won’t even know it’s happening.

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.

The cashless toll system involves two options for drivers – one called N.C. Quick Pass, which uses a vehicle transponder and infrared technology, and another that uses video cameras to capture license plate numbers.

Tolls are still undetermined, but drivers will likely be charged anywhere from 10 to 20 cents per mile, or higher, depending on which option they choose.