Tolls proposed for I-540 section in North Carolina

| Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Raleigh-area planning authority approved a plan for tolls to pay for a new section of Interstate 540 in Wake County, NC.

Despite opposition from city officials in Apex, NC, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to endorse tolling to pay for the 18.6-mile Western Wake Expressway portion of I-540. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has the final say on the funding method for the proposed $800 million section.

NCDOT – the same entity that claims there will be a $6 billion road-funding shortage during the next 25 years – commissioned the North Carolina Turnpike Authority in 2005 to conduct a feasibility study for tolls on I-540.

NCDOT officials have said the Western Wake Expressway is needed to relieve congestion on metro-area roads west of North Carolina state Route 55. State officials estimate that Wake County’s population will grow by 42 percent in the next 20 years – while budgets for new roads have stagnated or have been used up.

Tolls for cars are estimated at about $2 for the Wake County section, while truck tolls have not yet been determined.

The Apex Town Council, which has a seat on the regional planning board, voted to oppose tolls earlier this week. Apex Councilman Bryan Gossage has been a spokesman against tolls on the expressway.

“I find myself in favor of the road, but very much opposed to the toll,” Gossage said during a public meeting, according to The News & Observer of the Raleigh-Durham area. “We’re in this mess because of the absolute failure and the absolute ineffectiveness of our government’s Department of Transportation to exercise some financial discipline, prioritize, and, frankly, I resent the fact that the buck has been passed down to us.”

Some sections of the I-540 have been built using public dollars while others are still on the drawing board. The Western Wake Expressway could be under construction as soon as 2011 with tolls in place. Without tolls, the project could take at least two decades, NCDOT officials have stated in online documents.

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