North Carolina OKs funding for state’s first toll road

| 7/21/2008

Gov. Mike Easley has signed into law a budget that includes funding for a toll road in western Wake County. It will be the state’s first toll route.

A provision in the new budget allots the North Carolina Turnpike Authority $25 million annually to help pay off the cost of construction for the southern portion of a proposed extension of Interstate 540, dubbed the Triangle Expressway. The appropriation is slated to continue for 39 years to help build the 18.8-mile stretch of roadway.

Also included in the budget bill – HB2436 – is funding for three other planned toll projects.

Money for the Triangle Expressway will come via a phase-out of the $172.5 million that annually is rerouted from the state’s Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. It will help make up the difference between the amount of revenue the state expects to generate from tolls and the total cost – about $1 billion – to build and maintain the Expressway.

The roadway could be opened by 2010 and will extend I-540 from Morrisville to Holly Springs. The route is slated to be toll free north of state Route 55.

Supporters said the toll route is needed to maintain economic growth and reduce traffic congestion. Critics of the plan said it’s unfair that people using the expressway in western Wake County might have to pay tolls to complete the roadway because the northern half was built with tax dollars.

The authority is supposed to remove the tolls when the debt is paid off.

Other projects slated for funding in the budget include the Monroe Connector/Bypass. Starting in fiscal year 2009, the 21-mile planned roadway in Union County would get $24 million a year.

Also in fiscal year 2009, the Mid-Currituck Bridge project over the Currituck Sound will begin receiving $15 million annually. The following year, $35 million will start being allotted for the 15-mile Garden Parkway project in Gaston and Mecklenburg counties.

To view other legislative activities of interest for North Carolina in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor