Western Wake Freeway
|Maintained by NCDOT|
|Length:||18.8 mi (30.3 km)|
|Existed:||2011 – present|
|West end:||I‑40 near Durham|
NC 55 Byp. in Apex
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
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.
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 (originally envisioned as part of I-540, because of rules against tolls on interstate highways, this section is now called NC 540. 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.
Western Wake Freeway
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. In summer 2009, work began on the freeway. On August 1, 2012, the 6.6-mile (10.6 km) second section from NC 55 to US 64 opened, with the remaining six miles south of US 64 to NC 55 in Holly Springs opening December 20, 2012. Tolls and $25 million a year from the North Carolina legislature will finance the project.
The Triangle Expressway is built as an all-electronic toll road with billing by license plate, 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, 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. 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.
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. The expected rates are 15 cents per mile (9.3 ¢/km) for those with transponders, and 24 cents per mile (15 ¢/km) for others.
On May 4, 2010, the Turnpike Authority signed a contract with TransCore to provide transponders. 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. Transponder sales began October 11, 2011. As of January 3, 2013, E-ZPass is accepted. The NC Quick Pass hard case transponder is also accepted on E-ZPass toll roads. On July 29, 2013, Florida's SunPass and EPASS can also be used.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
The name "Triangle Expressway" became official in May 2007, and turnpike board member Perry R. Safran said the committee also wanted the nickname "TriEx".
On November 14, 2007, the board decided toll booths would not be used, 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.
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.
On December 20, 2012, the section from U.S. 64 to NC 55 in Holly Springs opened with toll collection beginning in January.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
|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)|
|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)|
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
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