I-540 Loop reaches south from RTP to Apex

After a ribbon-cutting Wednesday morning, DOT will open the second phase of the Triangle Expressway to traffic. Toll collection begins early Thursday, one minute after midnight.

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comAugust 1, 2012 

The N.C. Turnpike Authority will give drivers in western Wake County a brief trial run Wednesday – toll-free for about 13 hours – on a new six-lane section of the Triangle Expressway.

This limited-time offer expires at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. That’s when electronic toll collection begins.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the 540 Outer Loop interchange with N.C. 55 at Research Triangle Park.

Then at 11 a.m., the barricades will be removed to allow cars and trucks on the new stretch of TriEx, which will extend 540 south from N.C. 55 to U.S. 64 at Apex. Drivers can exit and enter the new road at either end, and at an interchange on Green Level Road West.

Drivers also will start paying Thursday morning for each trip they take on an existing 2.8-mile section of 540 between N.C. 54 and N.C. 55. This road has been toll-free since it opened in 2007.

“We’re excited,” said David Joyner, the turnpike authority executive director. “I hope the people like it. I hope they will use it. I’m confident they will.”

TriEx, North Carolina’s first modern toll road, opened its first phase in January, a 3.4-mile extension of N.C. 147 from Interstate 40 through RTP to 540. About 2,800 vehicles use the road on an average workday.

Heavier traffic is expected on the newly tolled sections of 540. The existing stretch of 540 carries about 20,000 vehicles each day. The turnpike authority has sold more than 25,000 N.C. Quick Pass transponders for drivers who plan to use TriEx.

The third phase of TriEx, set to open in January 2013, will extend the 540 Outer Loop 6 miles south from U.S. 64 at Apex to N.C. 55 at Holly Springs.

The toll road will offer a faster alternative for commuters and other drivers on the heavily congested N.C. 55. Many western Wake residents have protested that it is unfair for the state to collect tolls on the new section of 540, while the road’s northern arc remains toll-free.

Cars with transponders qualify for the lowest toll rates – for example, $1.53 to drive the combined 9.4 miles of the 540 Outer Loop, from N.C. 54 to U.S. 64.

For vehicles without transponders, the turnpike authority takes pictures of license plates and bills the owners by mail. The bill-by-mail toll for that same 9.4-mile 540 trip is $2.35.

Details are available online at ncquickpass.com or by phone at 877-769-7277.

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/

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