MORRISVILLE, N.C. (AP) North Carolina’s first modern-day toll road opened to vehicle traffic Dec. 8, a 3.5-mi. (5.6 km) road in western Wake County that is a sign of things to come in the state’s growing areas.
State Transportation Secretary Gene Conti and Turnpike Authority director David Joyner cut a ceremonial ribbon on the Triangle Parkway. Conti then led a caravan of motorists to try out the new road, which connects Interstates 40 and 540.
Motorists were able to use the highway toll-free until Jan. 3. No booths will collect money — tolls will be 15 cents a mile for those with wireless transponders and slightly more if the state bills by mail. Cameras will snap license plate photos to bill people by mail.
The highway is the first phase of the 19-mi. (30.6 km) Triangle Expressway between Research Triangle Park, located between Raleigh and Durham, and Holly Springs, which is southwest of Raleigh. The expressway should be completed by the end of next year. A part of the expressway that’s already being used will require tolls starting in August.
The parkway is the first toll road completed by the Turnpike Authority, which was created by the Legislature in 2002.
The parkway is slated to begin construction next year of a 7-mi. (11.2 km) toll bridge crossing the Currituck Sound between the mainland and Currituck County. The authority also signed a $368 million contract in November to build the nearly 20-mi. (32 km) Monroe Connector-Bypass, which will stretch from U.S. 74 near I-485 in Mecklenburg County to U.S. 74 between Wingate and Marshville in Union County. Toll revenues are needed to pay off bonds for construction.
Conti said the state also is considering tolls for I-95.
“We have several distinct toll projects under development,” Conti said.
North Carolina has a history with tolling. The state DOT historian has found evidence of a Lenoir Turnpike as some kind of toll project in the western part of the state around 1912, said Reid Simons, a department spokeswoman.
Paying on a per-mile basis to use a road still leaves mixed feelings with the public.
Chris Endicott of Apex, commutes daily through the Research Triangle Park area to work in Durham. Endicott said he expects the Triangle Expressway will trim his drive by five to 15 minutes.
“That is why I will gladly pay a buck a day to drive it,” he said.
But Jim Rozier of Raleigh said he’ll avoid driving on the toll road.
“I don’t see the need to pay for something I can get for free,” he said. “That’s what my gas taxes are for.”