Now that construction is under way on a toll road to extend the 540 Outer Loop through western Wake County, the N.C. Turnpike Authority has started planning the proposed 30-mile southern and eastern sections that would bring the loop full circle around Raleigh.
The 18-mile Triangle Expressway will run from Interstate 40 at Research Triangle Park to Holly Springs in southwest Wake. Drivers will pay tolls electronically when it is completed in late 2012.
Commuters and truckers, weary of rush-hour congestion on I-40 through Wake County, have been eager to see the state build the proposed Southern Wake Expressway from Holly Springs to I-40 near Garner.
There has been less support for the Eastern Wake Expressway from Garner to Knightdale, where it would meet the existing 540 loop.
Traffic forecasts produced by turnpike engineers Wednesday suggest that building the southern section as a toll road would ease congestion on I-40 in Raleigh, and on east-west routes such as Ten Ten Road.
And it would bring more paying customers to the Triangle Expressway.
“The logic of building Southern Wake is that it makes a strong connection for I-40,” sad Steve DeWitt, the turnpike authority’s chief engineer. “Making a business case for constructing a project is stronger on the southern side than on the eastern side.”
Joe Bryan of Knightdale, a Wake County commissioner who chairs the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he hopes the upcoming study will confirm his belief that the Eastern Wake Expressway is an essential part of the loop.
“It just seems from a system standpoint it would be very appropriate to have a complete circle versus an arc or half circle,” Bryan said.
No decisions have been made about when or whether to build the proposed roads.