View Triangle Expressway in a larger map
The 540 Outer Loop will grow 12.6 miles longer in western Wake County when the N.C. Turnpike Authority opens two more sections – next week, reaching from Research Triangle Park to Apex, and in January, continuing south to Holly Springs. You’ll find more about this in stories Sunday (see 7/29 story) in The N&O, and later in the coming week.
Readers submitted questions about TriEx. Here are answers.
Q: How long is the Triangle Expressway?
A: TriEx will cover 18.8 miles from Holly Springs to RTP, N.C. 54 and Interstate 40.
Q: What did it cost, and where did the money come from?
A: The N.C. Turnpike Authority borrowed the money for this $1.1 billion project, which is North Carolina’s first modern toll road. Tolls collected from drivers will repay most of the debt. The General Assembly will contribute $25 million a year to cover a gap between the repayment cost and the expected toll revenues.
Q: What time Wednesday will the new section of the Triangle Expressway, from N.C. 55 at Research Triangle Park to U.S. 64 at Apex, be open to traffic?
A: Approximately 11 a.m. (after a ribbon-cutting ceremony).
Q: When will the Turnpike Authority open the next leg of TriEx, from U.S. 64 at Apex to N.C. 55 at Holly Springs?
A: The next leg will be completed by Dec. 31.
Q: When will tolls be extended to the existing sections of the 540 Outer Loop, from N.C. 54 to U.S. 64 / 264?
A: There are no plans to toll the northern Outer Loop. (But Raleigh planners say it will be necessary to add lanes to parts of the northern loop before 2030, with tolls a possible source for funds to pay for the improvement.)
Q: When will the loans used to build TriEx and other costs be paid off, allowing the state to convert it to a toll-free road?
A: Approximately 30 years, NCDOT says.
Q: What happens if toll revenues fall below expectations, or exceed expectations?
A: The Turnpike Authority says its revenue forecasts are conservative, and it expects to exceed them. If the money falls short, a new traffic and revenue study might be conducted to recommend options that could include new toll rates or refinancing. If the revenues are high, the Turnpike Authority could consider options including repaying the loan early or reducing the toll rates.
Q: When can we expect the interchange at Morrisville Parkway to open, and who will pay for it?
A: The Town of Cary is studying an interchange as part of a project to extend the Morrisville Parkway. The interchange is mentioned in the town’s Capital Improvement Plan for 2016, but no funding has been identified so the schedule is uncertain. Details are on the town website at http://bit.ly/NZs5CD
Q: Can the Turnpike Authority work to get the new TriEx reflected on Google Maps and GPS devices right away? It took months before the first section of TriEx was reflected correctly.
A: From the Turnpike Authority: “We will notify them once each section of the road is complete. However, since they are a private company we cannot require them to update it.”
Q: When will DOT build the next leg of 540 across southern Wake from Holly Springs to I-40 near Garner?
A: The Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension project is on hold, and the schedule is unknown. Environmental regulators have expressed concern about a proposed route that runs through sensitive wetlands, and the General Assembly has barred DOT from studying routes through Garner. The Regional Transportation Alliance is working with local leaders to find a way to move the project forward. DOT will post any updates on the project website: http://1.usa.gov/NZtIAe
Q: Why didn’t the Turnpike Authority adopt the E-ZPass from the start, joining a transponder system that’s already in place in other states – rather than design a new transponder that can be used only here? When will drivers be able to use the E-ZPass in North Carolina?
A: The Turnpike Authority is working out the necessary agreements, and hopes TriEx drivers will be able to use the E-ZPass by the end of the year. “We chose a technology that is cutting edge and would work for E-ZPass, as well as other tolling agencies across the nation.”
Q: Why will drivers have to pay tolls, starting Thursday, on a portion of the 540 Outer Loop (between N.C. 54 and N.C. 55) that was built entirely with tax dollars and has been toll-free since it opened in 2007?
A: The Turnpike Authority received permission from the General Assembly and the federal government to add this section in order to combine two proposed toll roads – the Triangle Parkway and the Western Wake Freeway – into a single project, the Triangle Expressway. The state benefited from reduced financing costs.
Q: Will police, lawyers, reporters or other people be able to find out personal driving histories by snooping into toll records?
A: No. State law protects toll road drivers’ privacy. A court order is required to obtain such information.
Q: How do I pay the toll?
A: There are no cash collection booths on TriEx. Contact the Turnpike Authority at 877-769-7277 or online at ncquickpass.com to get a transponder. Otherwise, you’ll be billed by mail for the trip – based on a photo of your license plate.