Triangle Expressway

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Toll plate yellow.svgToll plate yellow.svg
NC 147.svgNC 540.svg

Triangle Expressway
Triangle Parkway
Western Wake Freeway
Route information
Maintained by NCDOT
Length: 18.8 mi[1] (30.3 km)
Existed: 2011 – present
Major junctions
West end: I‑40 near Durham
East end:
NC 55 Byp. in Apex
Counties: Durham, Wake
Highway system

The Triangle Expressway (TriEx) is the first modern toll road built in North Carolina, and one of the first toll roads in the United States built to use only electronic toll collection instead of toll booths. The overall freeway consists of two segments called the Triangle Parkway and the Western Wake Freeway. The six-lane Triangle Parkway extends the pre-existing NC 147 3.5 miles (5.6 km) in Durham County to meet NC 540 in Morrisville in Wake County. The Western Wake Freeway extends the total Triangle Expressway to 18.8 miles (30.3 km) long, extending NC 540 where it continues along to Holly Springs.

Description of the project[edit]

The money for the project comes from $625 million in bonds and a $387 million loan from the federal government. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority deposited this money on July 29, 2009, and on the same day the agency's executive director David W. Joyner signed contracts to pay $584 million of that money to three companies to build the road over the next 42 months, creating 13,800 jobs.[citation needed]

Triangle Parkway[edit]

S. T. Wooten Corp. of Wilson, North Carolina built the 3.4-mile (5.5 km) northern section, an extension of NC 147 called Triangle Parkway, at a cost of $137.5 million, including an electronic toll plaza on I-540. The new road opened for traffic on December 8, 2011 and extends from the previously existing section of NC 147 south from I-40 to an 2.8-mile (4.5 km) section of the Northern Wake Expressway. Completed in 2007, the existing section became part of the toll road August 2, 2012[2][3][4] (originally envisioned as part of I-540, because of rules against tolls on interstate highways, this section is now called NC 540.[5][6] When Research Triangle Park (RTP) was created in the late 1950s, a corridor of land was preserved to be available for the Triangle Parkway's eventual construction. Another $230 million was spent on 525 acres (2.12 km2) of additional right-of-way for the entire road.

Actual tolling of the new section of road began January 3, 2012.[2][7]

Western Wake Freeway[edit]

Granite Construction of Watsonville, California, and Archer Western Contractors of Atlanta worked together as Raleigh Durham Roadbuilders to complete the 12.6-mile (20.3 km) Western Wake Freeway at a cost of $446.5 million. This section of the Triangle Expressway, which extends from NC 55 at RTP to NC 55 at Holly Springs, will become part of NC 540.[4] In summer 2009, work began on the freeway.[8] On August 1, 2012, the 6.6-mile (10.6 km) second section from NC 55 to US 64 opened,[3] with the remaining six miles south of US 64 to NC 55 in Holly Springs opening December 20, 2012.[9][10][7][11] Tolls and $25 million a year from the North Carolina legislature will finance the project.[4]


Toll Rates of NC 147 from NC 540

The Triangle Expressway is built as an all-electronic toll road with billing by license plate,[4] similar to Maryland's Route 200 (InterCounty Connector, largely opened to traffic in 2011). Some existing toll roads, such as the 183A toll road in Austin,[12][13] have been converted to all-electronic tolling with license plate recognition, and some toll roads, such as the Westpark Tollway near Houston, have been built with transponder-only all-electronic tolling.[14] Also, toll roads outside the United States, such as the Highway 407 in Ontario, have been built with all-electronic tolling and license plate recognition.[15]

Drivers can open an account and use a transponder, which results in a lower rate. Other drivers will have their license plates photographed, and they will receive a bill.[4] The expected rates are 15 cents per mile (9.3 ¢/km) for those with transponders, and 24 cents per mile (15 ¢/km) for others.[2][16]

On May 4, 2010, the Turnpike Authority signed a contract with TransCore to provide transponders.[17] Drivers can, however, use their existing accounts; North Carolina becomes the only state to offer this option. 350,000 new transponders are expected to be issued in the first five years.[18] Transponder sales began October 11, 2011.[19] As of January 3, 2013, E-ZPass is accepted. The NC Quick Pass hard case transponder is also accepted on E-ZPass toll roads.[20] On July 29, 2013, Florida's SunPass and EPASS can also be used.[21]

Residents in the area have grumbled about the tolls, considering that the new highway is the only toll road in North Carolina, and especially since other large sections of 540 have been completed without tolls. Businesspeople who plan to use the highway, however, explain that the time savings will more than balance out the cost.[22]

Toll rates[edit]

As of January 1, 2016, the total trip rate is $3.40 with the North Carolina Quick Pass and $4.65 via bill-by-mail.[23][24] Listed below is the toll rate breakdown, by gantry:


The "Triangle Parkway" was first proposed in 1958, as part of Research Triangle Park. On February 16, 2005, it was one of four roads selected by the Turnpike Authority to be built as toll roads in North Carolina. The estimated cost was $69 million for 3.2 miles (5.1 km) between Davis Drive and NC 54. An additional $29 million could be spent extending that highway 1.3 miles (2.1 km) to McCrimmon Parkway in Morrisville, whose leaders opposed the idea. The original parkway route, however, had no real opponents.[25]

At the groundbreaking ceremony in 2009, Representative David Price pointed out that using tolls to finance this road "was not our first choice." Instead, area governments concluded the road would have taken 15 more years to complete any other way, so the decision to charge tolls came in 2005.[26] The 12.5-mile (20.1 km) Western Wake Expressway from RTP to Holly Springs had been delayed earlier in the year, and the legislature had increased the number of toll projects allowed from four to nine.[27]

In July 2006, the legislature decided to allow the section of I-540 connecting the Triangle Parkway and Western Wake Expressway to be a toll road if the other two roads were also toll roads, even though the road was already being built.[28]

Federal approval for the use of tolls came in January 2007. The Turnpike Authority asked that the new section of road not be called an Interstate.

Just before the July 2007 opening of the 4.5-mile (7.2 km) I-540 section between I-40 and NC 55, I-540 signs came down, replaced with NC 540 signs. Using the designation NC 540, a decision made in May 2007, was less confusing than giving the road an entirely new number.[6]

The name "Triangle Expressway" became official in May 2007, and turnpike board member Perry R. Safran said the committee also wanted the nickname "TriEx".[29]

On November 14, 2007, the board decided toll booths would not be used,[30] and on June 5, 2008, the State House voted to approve $25 million a year for 39 years for the project. This would cover the difference between expected toll collections and actual costs.[31]

Groundbreaking was held on August 12, 2009 at the west end of Interstate 540 (I-540). "A dozen dignitaries" used shovels painted gold as 150 watched.[26]

On December 8, 2011, the first leg of the Triangle Expressway opened to traffic. Toll collection began January 3, 2012.[2][32]

On August 1, 2012, the second section of the Triangle Expressway, from Research Triangle Park to U.S. 64, opened. Toll collection began the following day.[3]

On December 20, 2012, the section from U.S. 64 to NC 55 in Holly Springs opened with toll collection beginning in January.[9]

Toll rates change almost annually as required by the bond covenant created for the funding of the Expressway. Since its initial rate set at 2012, it has increased in 2013, 2015 and 2016.[33][23]

On January 20, 2017, the expressway was chosen as one of 10 testing locations for driverless cars.[34]


Planned as the next phase of the Triangle Expressway and the final segment of the Raleigh Beltway, the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension (also known as the Southern and Eastern Wake Freeways) will traverse 30 miles (48 km) linking NC 540 and I-540, just south of Knightdale. Planning for the route started in 2010, but was put on hold on March, 2011 by the enactment of North Carolina Session Law 2011-7 (N.C. S.L. 2011-7). This law stated routes to study "shall not be located north of" the Orange Route, shown on maps for 20 years, potentially impacting wetlands and endangered mollusks.[35][36][37][38] The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opposed the Orange Route unless other potential routes could be found. A map unveiled August 22, 2012 shows the Lilac Route and the Plum Route, which would result in less environmental impact but would cause the loss of more homes. Planners hoped for a final route by 2014.[39] On December 7, 2012, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replied to NCDOT saying they could not legally evaluate the Orange Route without comparing it to another route expected to cause less environmental harm. Since there is an impasse between the Federal government and the state regarding the issue, the federal funds for the project have been cut, putting the Southeast Extension on hiatus.[40]

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement released in late 2015 included 17 options, the Red Route included. Construction west of Interstate 40 would start in 2018 or later. The Lilac Route avoided the environmental problems of the Orange Route but like the Red Route would result in many homes being lost, and the Raleigh water treatment plant would also be affected. The Blue Route and Purple Route to the south of the others would cause the loss of even more homes. East of Interstate 40, there was no preferred route, and all of the options had problems.[41]

Two new interchanges are planned. One at Old Holly Springs/Apex Road should open in November 2016, and one at Morrisville Parkway is set to open in 2018.[23]

Exit list[edit]

County Location mi[1] km Exit Destinations Notes
Durham RTP 0.0 0.0 5 I‑40 to NC 54 – Raleigh, Chapel Hill Triangle Expressway begins; signed as exit 5A (east) and 5B (west)
1.7 2.7 3 / 2 Davis Drive / Hopson Road Signed exit 3 southbound, exit 2 northbound
Wake Morrisville 3.3 5.3 1 NC 540 east to I‑40 to I‑540 – Raleigh
Triangle Expressway merges from NC 147 onto NC 540
5.0 8.0 66 NC 55 – Apex, Durham Signed as exits 66A (east) and 66B (west)
Cary Morrisville Parkway Future interchange (construction to start in 2018)[42]
9.0 14.5 62 Green Level West Road – Cary
Apex 11.7 18.8 59 US 64 – Apex, Pittsboro Signed as exits 59A (east) and 59B (west)
57 South Salem Street
56 US 1 – Raleigh, Sanford Signed as exits 56A (north) and 56B (south)
Apex 55 Veridea Parkway
NC 55 Byp. – Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina
Triangle Expressway ends; signed as exits 54A (west) and 54B (east)
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Note – Exit numbers are based on NC 147 or NC 540.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Google (December 12, 2012). "Triangle Expressway" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Shrader, Brian (January 3, 2012). "State's first toll road starts collecting Tuesday". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Siceloff, Bruce (August 2, 2012). "Toll collection starts Thursday on 9 miles of 540 Outer Loop". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Siceloff, Bruce (July 30, 2009). "Turnpike board starts spending for toll road". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved August 12, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Interstate 540 North Carolina". Interstate Guide. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Siceloff, Bruce (July 4, 2007). "New bit of Outer Loop renamed". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. 
  7. ^ a b Staff (December 8, 2010). "Progress Schedule". North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Retrieved January 11, 2011. 
  8. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (March 30, 2010). "Southern Wake loop's roadwork to start in 2014". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "Triangle Expressway to Open 13 Days Early". NCDOT. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ Mildwurf, Bruce (December 7, 2011). "Stretch of state's first toll road opens in Triangle". WRAL-TV Stretch of state's first toll road opens in Triangle. Retrieved January 3, 2011. 
  11. ^ Staff. "Triangle Expressway". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  12. ^ "No longer accepting cash: 183A". Austin Business Journal. December 2, 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2009. 
  13. ^ "183A Toll Road Stops Accepting Cash; Cash Toll Booths Replaced by TxTag and Pay-By-Mail" (PDF) (Press release). Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. December 1, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  14. ^ "First Phase of New Westpark Tollway Opens May 1, 2004" (Press release). Harris County Toll Road Authority. May 1, 2004. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". 407 ETR. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  16. ^ Mildwurf, Bruce (March 3, 2011). "Toll road to cost 15 to 24 cents a mile to drive". Raleigh, NC: WRAL-TV. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  17. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (May 5, 2010). "Toll road won't stop you to pay". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  18. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (May 7, 2010). "Drivers to have options on tolls". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  19. ^ Murawski, John (October 12, 2011). "Sales begin for toll road devices". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Announcements". Raleigh, NC: NC Quick Pass. January 3, 2013. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  21. ^ "North Carolina’s Quick Pass and Florida’s SunPass Now Function As One". Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Department of Transportation. July 29, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  22. ^ Siceloff, Bruce. "The 540 Outer Loop arrives in western Wake". News & Observer. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  23. ^ a b c "Triangle Expressway tolls to rise Jan. 1". News & Observer. December 11, 2015. 
  24. ^ Triangle Expressway (JPEG) (Map). North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  25. ^ Eisley, Matthew (February 17, 2005). "Old RTP plan revived as toll road". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  26. ^ a b Siceloff, Bruce (August 13, 2009). "Future rides on toll roads". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved August 14, 2009. 
  27. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (November 24, 2005). "Tolls proposed to finish loop". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved September 8, 2009. [dead link]
  28. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (August 6, 2006). "I-540 toll plan goes to mayors". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved September 8, 2009. [dead link]
  29. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (May 22, 2007). " 'Turnpike' too gritty, but calling it 'TriEx'?". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved September 8, 2009. [dead link]
  30. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (November 15, 2007). "Booths for tolls tossed". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Archived from the original on September 5, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2009. 
  31. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (June 8, 2008). "NW Wake toll road gets House nod". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Archived from the original on June 16, 2008. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  32. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (December 8, 2011). "State's first modern toll road opens today". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved December 8, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Triangle Expressway Toll Rate Increase Begins Jan. 1; 14-22 cents increase for traveling whole Expressway" (Press release). North Carolina Department of Transportation. December 30, 2014. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  34. ^ Campbell, Colin (January 20, 2017). "Driverless cars to be tested on N.C. 540 Triangle Expressway toll road". News & Observer. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  35. ^ Siceloff, Bruce; Campbell, Colin (January 4, 2011). "Garner protest may kill one highway route". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  36. ^ Staff. "Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 6, 2011. 
  37. ^ Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension Project Map (PDF) (Map). North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Retrieved November 6, 2011. 
  38. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (May 22, 2012). "New TriEx proposals may save Garner from Red Route". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  39. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (August 22, 2012). "Planners try restarting TriEx project in southern Wake". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  40. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (December 12, 2012). "Federal funding cut, state law challenged on NC 540 Red Route". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  41. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (November 9, 2015). "Road Worrier: 540 Loop project offers a choice of colors". The News & Observer. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  42. ^ Siceloff, Bruce (July 10, 2015). "Two new interchanges will bring more paying customers to Triangle Expressway". The News & Observer. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 

External links[edit]