Joyner, the executive director of the N.C. Turnpike Authority, needs to get the money in October so he can break ground in December on the 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway in Research Triangle Park and western Wake County.
Like most of us, Joyner watched helplessly from the sidelines this week as national leaders in Washington grappled with terms of a bailout aimed at stabilizing the fractured financial markets on Wall Street.
“We’re hoping things will get settled in the next few days so we can see some stability in the markets, and people will start selling municipal bonds again,” Joyner said.
Wake and Durham county officials recently were forced to postpone or restructure planned bond sales. The turnpike authority’s timetable has not changed, yet.
In mid-October, the turnpike authority plans to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation for a loan of about $400 million. If the loan comes through, the authority will try to sell about $600 million in bonds on Wall Street in late October.
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.
Joyner expressed optimism about the federal loan. There’s no way to predict, he said, whether Wall Street will be ready in late October to buy turnpike bonds at an affordable interest rate.
“The whole country is holding its breath to see what’s going on,” Joyner said. “I think it’s going to work out.”