The N.C. Turnpike Authority began selling electronic devices this morning that will enable drivers pass through the cash-free toll road without slowing down to deposit coins in a bucket when the first section of the highway opens to the public in December. [10/12/11 update: see today's story.]
The turnpike authority's service center in Morrisville had sold 19 of the "transponders" by mid-day Tuesday. The first customers were mostly public officials who lined up at the sales windows as part of a publicity event for the new service center and the electronic devices.
The transponders cost $5 for in-state toll roads and $20 for use in North Carolina as well as toll roads in other states on the East Coast. The devices, which will be attached to windshields, will be read electronically at the tolls and drivers will be billed on their credit cards.
The first 3.4-mile section of State Road 147 will open in December and will begin charging the toll fee Jan. 3. The fee will be 50 cents for drivers with transponders. Drivers without transponders will be billed 77 cents by mail, based on the license plate of their car.
The toll road, called the Triangle Expressway, will be extended to 18.8 miles on the southwestern portion of I-540 next year. The fee for the entire toll road will be about $3 for drivers with transponders and about $4.05 for drivers without the devices.
Toll road drivers who don't own transponders and don't pay when they are billed by mail will not be able to renew their automobile registrations, officials said. Delinquent drivers will be notified three times before their registrations are put on hold.
The $20 transponder is not yet integrated with other state toll roads but should be within several months, officials said.
The service center is located at 200 Sorrell Grove Road in Morrisville. The transponders are also available online at www.ncquickpass.com.