North Carolina bill would pitch in to pay for toll road

| 5/24/2007

An effort in the North Carolina Senate would support construction of a toll road in western Wake County. It would be the state’s first toll route.

Officials with the state Turnpike Authority are asking state lawmakers to provide funding to jump start construction of the southern portion of a proposed extension of Interstate 540, dubbed the Triangle Expressway. The project has a price tag of at least $800 million.

Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Cary, has introduced a bill that would allot the authority $18 million annually to help pay off bonds issued to finance construction of the expressway. The appropriation would continue for 39 years or until the toll road pays for itself, WRAL-TV in Raleigh reported.

The expressway would extend Interstate 540 from Morrisville to Holly Springs. The route is slated to be toll free north of state Route 55.

Supporters say the toll route is needed to maintain economic growth and reduce traffic congestion. With the state strapped for cash, they also say tolls could cover most of the cost and speed up completion by at least 20 years to 2011.

Without tolls, officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation said it will be 2032 before the 18.6-mile stretch of roadway is finished.

The toll road funding bill – SB1054 – is in the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor