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If Wall Street would settle down, NC could get moving on Triangle Expressway

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NC Turnpike AuthorityFolks at the N.C. Turnpike Authority are still hoping Wall Street will settle down in the next couple of weeks so they can borrow $1 billion to start construction this winter on the 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway.

So are hundreds of people who could get jobs building the new toll road in Western Wake and Research Triangle Park.  Not to mention thousands of Triangle commuters who could start using TriEx as soon as the end of 2010.

Next Thursday’s turnpike board meeting has been postponed until the U.S. Department of Transportation acts on North Carolina’s request for a $400 million turnpike loan. That still could happen as soon as the end of next week, says David Joyner, the turnpike agency’s executive director.

As soon as the feds OK what is called a TIFIA loan, the turnpike board will meet to sign some paperwork and proceed with the next step in financing the TriEx. The authority would go through the state Local Government Commission and then to Wall Street, where lenders will be asked to buy $600 million in turnpike bonds.

The TIFIA loan still seems to be a fairly good bet, Joyner said, but the bond sale is another matter. Local and state governments from Wake County to California this month have been forced to cancel or postpone bond sales.

“There’s no denying that the credit windows are closed on bond issues right now, and nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen or when,” Joyner said today.

“We remain hopeful, if not optimistic, that this storm will eventually pass and the clouds will clear so we can set sail as soon as possible.”

With this borrowed money in hand, the turnpike authority can build the state’s first modern toll road. Traffic could be running on part of the TriEx by the end of 2010.

The authority will collect tolls electronically — from drivers identified by signals from transponders on their dashboards, or by video images of their license tags — to repay the loans. The General Assembly has pledged a yearly subsidy of $25 million to cover an expected gap between toll collections and the total cost of repaying the loans and operating and maintaining the TriEx.

 

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About the blogger

Bruce Siceloff reports on traffic and transportation. A News & Observer reporter, editor and blogger since 1976, he took over the Road Worrier column in 2003. Lately he drives I-40 with the cruise control set at 68 mph. You can e-mail Bruce, call him at 919-829-4527, check out his Crosstown Traffic blog or follow him (@Road_Worrier) on Twitter.
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