Interstate 540 (North Carolina)
|Raleigh Outer Loop|
|Auxiliary route of I-40|
|Maintained by NCDOT|
|Length||42.2 mi (67.9 km)|
I-540: 25.8 mi (41.5 km)
NC 540: 16.4 mi (26.4 km)
|Beltway around Raleigh|
Interstate 540 (I-540) and North Carolina Highway 540 (NC 540) are part of a partially completed beltway around the city of Raleigh in the US state of North Carolina, forming the Raleigh Outer Loop. When complete, the route will completely encircle the city, meeting its parent route of I-40 in two locations.
The initial phase of construction is designated I-540 and was completed in January 2007. It runs from I-40 near the Raleigh–Durham International Airport to I-87/U.S. Highway 64 (US 64)/US 264 south of Knightdale. The original plan was for the entire route to be designated as part of the Interstate Highway System, possibly renumbering the route to I-640 when the beltway was complete. When it became financially unfeasible to construct the entire route with public funds within a reasonable timeframe, it was decided that the remaining portion of the route (approximately two-thirds of the total completed mileage) would be constructed as a toll road and designated as a North Carolina highway rather than an Interstate Highway. The tolled portion is known as the Triangle Expressway. The first section of NC 540 was opened in July 2007, extending westward from the western terminus of I-540. Further extensions have carried NC 540 around the western side of Wake County to its current southwestern terminus south of Apex. Future projects are planned to complete the southern leg, from Apex to Garner, and eastern leg, from Garner to Knightdale, under the same toll system. In particular, the portion south of Garner has been held up due to conflicting interests in choosing a path for the route. The southern extension is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in late 2023. Construction on the eastern extension is projected to begin sometime between 2026–2029 with a completion date of three to five years later.
When completed, the beltway will total 70 miles (110 km) in length, surrounding the city of Raleigh and the towns of Apex, Cary, Garner, and Morrisville. The designation from I-540 and NC 540 happens at I-40, in Durham County, where I-540 goes east and NC 540 goes west.
The beltway is further broken down into four segments:
|Northern Wake Expressway||I-540||NC 54 to I-87/US 64/US 264||29 mi (47 km)|
|Western Wake Freeway||NC 540||NC 54 in Cary to NC 55 south of Apex||12.4 mi (20.0 km)|
|Southern Wake Expressway (not yet built; estimated completion 2023)||NC 540||NC 55 to I-40 near Garner||16.5 mi (26.6 km)|
|Eastern Wake Expressway (not yet built; estimated completion 2033)||NC 540||I-40 to I-87/US 64/US 264||12.9 mi (20.8 km)|
|Total||70.8 mi (113.9 km)|
The I-540 portion begins at an interchange designated as exit 1 near I-40 (I-40 exit 283B) near the Raleigh–Durham International Airport, located right at the Durham–Wake county line. It travels northeast to Aviation Parkway (exit 2), then turns east along the southside of the Brier Creek neighborhood, with interchanges at Lumley Road (exit 3) and US 70 (exit 4). After crossing US 70, I-540 travels eastward across the mostly residential areas of North Raleigh, with several exits with major arterial roads, including Leesville Road (exit 7), NC 50/Creedmoor Road (exit 9), Six Forks Road (exit 11), and Falls of Neuse Road (exit 14). Turning southeast, there is a complex interchange with US 1/Capital Boulevard (exit 16) and Triangle Town Boulevard (exit 17), which provide access to the Triangle Town Center shopping mall and commercial district along Capital Boulevard. Shortly after the interchange with US 401/Louisburg Road (exit 18), I-540 crosses the Neuse River and then turns south towards Knightdale. I-540 immediately has an interchange with Buffaloe Road (exit 20). I-540 continues south paralleling both the Neuse River and Forestville Road. As I-540 enters Knightdale, it has an interchange with U.S. Highway 64 Business (US 64 Bus.)/Knightdale Boulevard (exit 24). About two miles (3.2 km) after the US 64 Bus. interchange, I-540 has its western terminus at I-87/US 64/US 264 (exit 26), though the roadway continues on for a short distance, and several ghost ramps indicate the planned connection to the rest of the loop.
North Carolina Highway 540
NC 540 is the designation given to the Western Wake Expressway and future Southern Wake Expressway and Eastern Wake Expressway. The Western Wake Expressway also forms a portion of the Triangle Expressway toll road complex. The current terminus is at NC 55 just south of Apex at exit 54. At this point, the road is heading due west and has two quick interchanges with Veridea Road (exit 55) and US 1 (exit 56) after turning to the northwest. Exit 56 connects to Salem Street, connecting to downtown Apex, while exit 59 connects to US 64 near the Beaver Creek Shopping Center. Now heading due north and between Green Level Church Road (to the west) and NC 55 (to the east), the road skirts the western edge of Cary, with interchanges at Green Level Road (exit 62) and Morrisville Parkway (exit 64). Just north of the former community of Carpenter (since annexed by Cary) is a second interchange with NC 55 (exit 66). The Triangle Expressway toll road leaves NC 540 at exit 67 to follow NC 885, leaving a short free segment of NC 540 to connect to I-540, along which there is a single interchange with NC 54 (exit 69) before meeting I-40 at exit 1 and continuing on as I-540.
No portion of I-540 is tolled. All of NC 540 is tolled except the short segment between I-40 and NC 54. Tolls are implemented by electronic toll collection (ETC) and are enforced by video cameras. Several gantries are located along the route and entrance/exit ramps, where they collect toll via the NC Quick Pass or other interoperable ETC systems. Those that do not participate in the ETC program will receive a bill in the mail and will have 30 days from the date on said bill before additional fees and civil penalties are applied.
Planning for the highway originally started in the early 1970s; by 1976, the "Northern Wake Expressway" was added to the planning map. In the mid-1980s, realizing that the growth in western Wake County may require more roads than planned, highway planners decided to expand the project as a new beltway around Raleigh. In 1992, construction began on the first three-mile (4.8 km) section of the Northern Wake Expressway, connecting I-40 with US 70. On January 21, 1997, the freeway opened as I-540.[unreliable source?][unreliable source?]
In the following 10 years, the now known Northern Wake Freeway (so not to be confused with the Triangle Expressway) made several extensions:
- December 11, 1999: From US 70/Glenwood Avenue (exit 4) to Leesville Road (exit 7).
- December 21, 2000: From Leesville Road (exit 7) to NC 50/Creedmoor Road (exit 9).
- June 29, 2001: From NC 50/Creedmoor Road (exit 9) to Falls of Neuse Road (exit 14).
- August 12, 2002: From Falls of Neuse Road (exit 14) to US 1/Capital Boulevard/Triangle Town Boulevard (exit 16).
- January 16, 2007: From Triangle Town Boulevard (exit 17) to US 64/US 264/Knightdale Bypass (exit 26).
From 1999 to 2002, each additional section of the freeway was designated as Future 540, until it connected with US 1.
On July 14, 2007, a section of the loop from I-40 west to NC 54 and NC 55 was opened. However, the route is signed not as I-540 but as NC 540. Officials decided to change the designation in early July at the urging of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA). Work on the western and southern portions of the beltway, if paid for by state funds, would possibly not open until 2030. At the request of several Wake County mayors, the NCTA in 2006 began studying the use of tolls to complete these portions of the Outer Loop.
The Authority concluded in early 2007 that it would be financially feasible to build the western section (along with an extended Durham Freeway, which combined would be called the "Triangle Expressway") using toll funds. The NCTA apparently never wanted an Interstate designation for the Western Wake Parkway. To lessen motorist confusion about where I-540 ended, the route was truncated to the I-40 interchange. All I-540 signs that were put up along the unopened stretch between I-40 and NC 55 were taken down in early July 2007; the new section is now signed as NC 540. (In addition, I-540 as a completed loop would violate the Interstate numbering convention regarding three-digit routes, as spurs begin with an odd number and loops with an even number, and, at one point, I-640—the last remaining available number within the state, as I-240, I-440, and I-840 are already taken—was proposed for the loop.)
Work to build the Western Wake Freeway, which would be renamed the "Western Wake Parkway" under the toll proposal, began August 12, 2009, with the Triangle Parkway portion opening in December 2011, and Western Wake portion scheduled to open in two phases in 2012.
In October 2008, the authority was unable to issue bonds to fund the Western Wake Turnpike project as planned due to market conditions affecting municipal bonds such as those. On July 29, 2009, the Authority closed on a revised $1.01-billion (equivalent to $1.26 billion in 2021) bond plan, consisting of $270 million (equivalent to $336 million in 2021) in toll revenue bonds, $353 million (equivalent to $440 million in 2021) in Build America Bonds, and a $387-million (equivalent to $482 million in 2021) loan from the US Department of Transportation under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
Groundbreaking was held on August 12, 2009, at the west end of I-540. "A dozen dignitaries" used shovels painted gold as 150 watched.
After work began on Western Wake Parkway in 2009, engineering and environmental studies began a year later for the Southern and Eastern Wake Freeways, also known as the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension. Construction would begin in 2014 and be completed by 2019; however, it was delayed in March 2011 by the enactment of North Carolina Session Law 2011-7 (N.C. S.L. 2011-7), which forbade the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to consider a few alternative routes.
In 2010, NCDOT made an interchange improvement at I-540/I-40, adding another auxiliary lane from I-540 south to I-40 west at a cost of $4.8 million (equivalent to $5.91 million in 2021).
The completed Triangle Parkway, the first section of the Triangle Expressway, with its connection to NC 540, opened on December 8, 2011, reestablishing exit 67. Collection of tolls began on January 3, 2012. On August 1, 2012, the first phase of the Western Wake Freeway opened, connecting NC 55 in Morrisville (exit 66) to US 64 in Apex. The next day tolling began on the previously open section from NC 54 to NC 55. The final phase of the tolled section of NC 540, from US 64 to NC 55 north of Holly Springs, opened on December 20, 2012. Tolling for this section began January 2, 2013. On April 3, 2017, the Veridea Parkway interchange (exit 55; formally known as Old Holly Springs Apex Road) was opened to traffic. At a cost of $20 million (equivalent to $22 million in 2021), it was constructed by Blythe Construction and Kimley-Horn. An interchange with the newly extended Morrisville Parkway (exit 64) opened to traffic on February 3, 2020.
A plan approved by the Raleigh city council in November 2013 includes asking for tolls for the existing highway in order to widen it to eight lanes by 2035 or 2040. This would require both state and federal approval. As a temporary solution to increased traffic on the northern section, NCDOT has installed ramp meters on some onramps, the first ones in the state.
Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension
The Southern Wake Expressway will connect Holly Springs with Garner. The route for the southern leg, known as the Orange Route, has been protected from development by NCDOT since the 1990s, but it would cross habitat for the endangered dwarf wedgemussel. The US Fish and Wildlife Service asked for routes north of the Orange Route to be considered as a way to provide a shorter option, possibly minimizing impacts to natural resources. In September 2010, a new map showed several other routes, including the controversial Red Route, which many Garner-area residents protested in a December 2010 meeting; a total of 3,000 signatures on petitions opposed the route as well.
After two years, the General Assembly chose to permit studying the Red Corridor, which meant possible routes could once again be considered. Documents released on September 9, 2013, changed the 30-mile (48 km) project from two phases to a single project, with construction expected to begin in 2018 and be completed by 2022. Public meetings were scheduled in October 2013 for "Complete 540".
In April 2016, NCDOT announced that Detailed Study Alternative 2 was selected as the preferred alternative for the project. The route goes from west to east and combines the proposed orange, green (southern portion), mint, and green (northern portion) corridor segments. As of August 21, 2021, the NC 540 from NC 55 to I-40 is scheduled to be open to traffic in 2023, with the final segment closing the loop to I-87/US 64/US 264 scheduled to begin the bidding process in 2029.
|Durham||||0.0||0.0||1||I-40 – Raleigh, Durham, RTP||Signed as exits 1A (east) and 1B (west)|
|Wake||Raleigh||2.0||3.2||2||Aviation Parkway – RDU Airport||Signed as exits 2A (south) and 2B (north)|
|4.2||6.8||4||US 70 (Glenwood Avenue) – Raleigh, Durham||Signed as exits 4A (east) and 4B (west)|
|||9.2||14.8||9||NC 50 (Creedmoor Road) – Creedmoor, Raleigh|
|Raleigh||11.4||18.3||11||Six Forks Road|
|13.8||22.2||14||Falls of Neuse Road|
|16.8||27.0||16||US 1 (Capital Boulevard) – Raleigh, Wake Forest|
|17.0||27.4||17||Triangle Town Boulevard||To Triangle Town Center|
|18.4||29.6||18||US 401 (Louisburg Road) – Louisburg, Raleigh|
US 64 Bus. – Raleigh, Knightdale
|Signed eastbound as exits 24A (west) and 24B (east)|
|25.8||41.5||26||I-87 / US 64 / US 264 (Knightdale Bypass) – Raleigh, Wilson, Rocky Mount||Signed as exits 26A (west) and 26B (east). I-87 previously signed as I-495.|
|Route transition from I-540 to NC 540|
|Poole Road||Future interchanges (proposed Triangle Expressway phase 3); estimated completion 2030–2033|
|||Auburn Knightdale Road|
|||Rock Quarry Road|
US 70 Bus.
|||White Oak Road|
|Johnston||||I-40 / US 70||Future interchanges (under construction), expected completion date 2023|
|Wake||||NC 50 (Benson Road)|
|||Old Stage Road|
|||US 401 (Fayetteville Road)|
|||Bells Lake Road|
|Holly Springs||Holly Springs Road|
|Apex||53.6||86.3||54||NC 55 – Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina||Signed as exits 54A (west) and 54B (east)|
|||55.6||89.5||56||US 1 – Raleigh, Sanford||To Harris Lake; signed as exits 56A (north) and 56B (south)|
|||56.6||91.1||57||South Salem Street|
|Apex||59.4||95.6||59||US 64 – Apex, Pittsboro||To Jordan Lake; signed as exits 59A (east) and 59B (west)|
|Cary||61.9||99.6||62||Green Level West Road – Cary|
|63.6||102.4||64||Morrisville Parkway||Opened February 3, 2020|
|66.4||106.9||66||NC 55 – Cary, Durham||To USA Baseball; signed as exits 66A (east) and 66B (west)|
NC 885 Toll north (Triangle Expressway) – Durham
|Was Davis Drive before June 1, 2010; reopened December 8, 2011 as Toll NC 147 north; renamed June 30, 2022 as Toll NC 885 north|
|69.2||111.4||69||NC 54 – Chapel Hill, Cary||End of NC 540 portion of Triangle Expressway. Road continues as I-540 (see exit 1 above)|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
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- ^ a b Google (March 4, 2014). "North Carolina Highway 540" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ a b Siceloff, Bruce (August 2, 2012). "Toll collection starts Thursday on 9 miles of 540 Outer Loop". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Archived from the original on August 3, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- ^ "Road Worrier: Road geeks quibble over I-495 numerical name". newsobserver.
- ^ Google. "Interstate 540 (North Carolina)" (Map). Google Maps. Google.
- ^ State Transportation Map (Map) (2013–14 ed.). Cartography by North Carolina State Tax Commission. North Carolina Department of Transportation. 2013.
- ^ "NC Quick Pass FAQ's". North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Archived from the original on April 14, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- ^ "I-440, 540, and 640". NC Roads. Self-published. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- ^ a b "I-540/NC 540". Wake County Roads. Self-published. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- ^ Miller, Kay (December 11, 1999). "I-540 Loop Now Longer". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ Roberts, Mark (December 6, 2000). "DOT Unwraps Commuter Plans for I-540". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ Lawrence, Tom (June 29, 2001). "New Stretch Of Outer Loop Opens". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ Calloway, Valonda (August 13, 2002). "New Section Of Raleigh's Outer Loop Now Open". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ "New Stretch of I-540 Opens". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. January 16, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ "NC Wake-Extend I-540 (2008-12-22)" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. December 22, 2008. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ "I-540 Raleigh Outer Loop". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- ^ "Route Change Request in Wake and Durham Counties (2008-07-16)" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. July 16, 2008. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ "Stretch of state's first toll road opens in Triangle". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV.
- ^ Siceloff, Bruce (August 13, 2009). "Future rides on toll roads". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Archived from the original on September 8, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
- ^ Baysden, Chris (October 14, 2008). "North Carolina Turnpike Authority unable to sell bonds for toll road". Triangle Business Journal.
- ^ a b c d e f Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2023). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 1, 2023. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
- ^ "Triangle Expressway System Senior Lien Revenue Bonds" (PDF). North Carolina Turnpike Authority. July 2009.
- ^ "Triangle Expressway System State Annual Appropriation Revenue Bonds, Series 2009B" (PDF). North Carolina Turnpike Authority. July 2009.
- ^ "USDOT Approves $386 Million Loan to Build Triangle Expressway in North Carolina" (Press release). Federal Highway Administration. July 13, 2009.
- ^ "Turnpike Authority Breaks Ground on the Triangle Expressway" (PDF) (Press release). North Carolina Turnpike Authority. August 12, 2009.
- ^ Siceloff, Bruce (August 13, 2009). "Future rides on toll roads". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Archived from the original on September 8, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
- ^ Siceloff, Bruce (March 30, 2010). "Southern Wake loop's roadwork to start in 2014". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Archived from the original on April 2, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2010.
- ^ a b Siceloff, Bruce; Campbell, Colin (January 4, 2011). "Garner protest may kill one highway route". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Archived from the original on January 7, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
- ^ "Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on October 30, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- ^ Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension Project Map (PDF) (Map). North Carolina Department of Transportation. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 23, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
- ^ "Northern Wake Freeway Interchange Improvements at I-540 & I-40". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- ^ "NC Route Changes (2011-12-09)" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. December 9, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- ^ "Triangle Expressway". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on November 23, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- ^ a b c "Toll road pits saving time versus spending money". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- ^ Siceloff, Bruce. "Two new interchanges will bring more paying customers to Triangle Expressway". The News & Observer. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
- ^ NCDOT. "Work To Start on New Interchange for Triangle Expressway". NCDOT. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
- ^ Staff (April 3, 2017). "New Triangle Expressway Interchange Now Open to Traffic" (Press release). Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- ^ "Veridea Parkway Interchange". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- ^ a b "MORRISVILLE PARKWAY EXTENSION AND NC 540 INTERCHANGE". Town of Cary. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
- ^ Siceloff, Bruce (November 26, 2013). "Raleigh mulls widening I-540 and converting it to a toll road". News and Observer. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
- ^ Stradling, Richard (September 22, 2017) Be prepared to stop: Traffic lights on I-540 ramps go live on Tuesday, Sept. 26. Raleigh, NC. The News & Observer. Retrieved February 26, 2018
- ^ Siceloff, Bruce (September 9, 2013). "Road Worrier: NCDOT vows to complete 540 across south and east Wake". News & Observer.
- ^ a b c NCDOT. "Complete 540". NCDOT. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
- ^ Stradling, Richard (September 6, 2017). "Have you driven on I-87 yet?". News and Observer. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
- ^ "Western Wake Freeway". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- ^ Siceloff, Bruce (July 10, 2012). "Road Worrier: Commuters eager for toll-road alternative to the daily slog on NC 55". Raleigh, NC: The News & Observer. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Media related to Interstate 540 (North Carolina) at Wikimedia Commons
- Media related to North Carolina Highway 540 at Wikimedia Commons
- I-540 on Wake County Roads
- NCRoads.com: I-540
- NCRoads.com: N.C. 540