Toll road to cost 15 to 24 cents a mile to drive

Posted March 3, 2011 7:30 p.m. EST
Updated March 6, 2011 12:19 a.m. EST

— State transportation officials on Thursday told drivers how much they will have to pay to drive on North Carolina's first toll road when it opens later this year.

When it's complete, the Triangle Expressway will run 18.8 miles from Durham to Holly Springs, and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority has designed it so that all tolls will be handled electronically so drivers never have to stop at a booth to fish for change.

There will be two ways to pay for using the highway:

  • The N.C. Quick Pass, which involves sticking a transponder on a vehicle's windshield and having the system deduct money from a prepaid account, will cost 15 to 16 cents a mile.
  • For vehicles without a transponder, roadside cameras will snap pictures of their license plates as they pass, and the Turnpike Authority will send them a bill in the mail at a rate of 23 to 24 cents a mile. People who ignore the bill will have a hold placed on their annual vehicle registration.

"The fact of the matter is this is the only way we can pay for these tremendously expensive roads," said David Joyner, executive director of the Turnpike Authority.

The Turnpike Authority expects rates to increase about 5 percent a year through 2015. Money collected from the tolls will pay off about 70 percent of the construction costs on the road.

"We owe the bank $1 billion, and we've got to repay it," Joyner said.

Some drivers consider the tolls a waste of money.

"I pretty much know how to get around and can probably go places without using a toll road, and I'd probably prefer that," driver Andrew Leliever said.

When they hear that the road could save them up to 20 minutes on a trip through western Wake County, others said they would use the toll road.

"I'd definitely consider it, definitely consider it because being stuck in that traffic when it's really bad is brutal," driver Brinson Taylor said.

"Time is money, and money is time. I think that right there sums it up," driver Lamont Middleton said.

Toll collection will begin when the 3.4-mile stretch called the Triangle Parkway opens later this year between N.C. Highway 147 in Durham and N.C. Highway 540 in Morrisville. At that time, the existing portion of N.C. 540 between N.C. Highway 54 and N.C. 55 will also be converted to a toll road.

The 12.6-mile Western Wake Freeway should open in 2012 between N.C. Highway 55 in Cary and N.C. 55 in Holly Springs. 

Transponders will go on sale this fall, before the highway opens. Officials say the units also will work on the E-Z Pass system in the Northeast and on toll roads in Florida.