North Carolina opens second expressway in series of toll projects

(PHOTO: State of North Carolina)

(PHOTO: State of North Carolina)

North Carolina’s second toll road, the first in the Charlotte area, opened to traffic late last month. The 18-mile Monroe Expressway has been over three years in the making, and it is the latest in a series of turnpike authority projects projects being planned across the state.

The expressway will take vehicles off a traffic-heavy stretch of U.S. 74 between Stallings and Marshville in Union County, North Carolina. It is estimated to save some travelers as many as 20 minutes of driving time, according to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.

“This is an important step in improving mobility in a rapidly growing region and one of the many solutions being brought to bear to better connect North Carolinians,” said Jim Trogdon, the state transportation secretary and chairman of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority Board. “Providing mobility options for communities is crucial to protect the quality of life and the economic growth our state enjoys.”

Two-axle vehicles without a special pass will rack up a $3.92 toll if it travels the entire stretch of road. That number climb to $7.84 for three-axle vehicles and $15.68 for four-axle vehicles, according to rates posted by North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Rates go down with the purchase of certain passes intended for frequent users.

The Monroe Expressway employs an all-electronic tolling system, which means drivers do not have to stop and pay tolls during their travels. Tolls will either be deducted from a prepaid transponder account or billed to the registered owner of the vehicle via mail, according to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.

ESP Associates, a sub-consultant on the project, estimated the road’s construction cost at about $450 million. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority said collected tolls will go toward paying off the project, as well as maintaining. The expressway is estimated to be paid off by mid-2050, at which point the turnpike authority will stop collecting tolls.

The Monroe Expressway is North Carolina’s second toll road, with the Triangle Expressway being the first. One of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority’s future projects includes extending this existing road to from the N.C. 55 Bypass in Apex, North Carolina to U.S. 64/U.S. 264 in Knightdale, North Carolina, completing an outer loop around the greater Raleigh area.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority is currently working on several other toll projects across the state, including adding express lanes to Interstate-77, Interstate-485 and multiple sections of U.S. 74.

The next project expected to be completed are the express lanes on I-77. These lanes will cover 26 miles of interstate between Brookshire Freeway in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and N.C. 150 in Iredell County, North Carolina.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority estimates the I-77 express lanes project at $647 million.