New parkway has steep price

March 25, 2008 7:14:54 PM PDT
RTP commuters are fed up with traffic gridlock on the way to and from work, and the Triangle Parkway is supposed to be the solution.

The proposed parkway would run south from I-40 at the Durham Freeway to N.C. 540. But there's a steep price and commuters could end up paying a toll.

The goal is to keep RTP commuters moving from Highway 147 at I-40 south to the N.C. 540 interchange. It's one of three parts to the Triangle Parkway.

But even the best road maps come with a few bumps.

"[N.C.] 540 should be a free to drive loop all the way around," David McDowell, notollson540.org, said.

McDowell posted signs outside Tuesday night's public hearing. For him, paying $.10 - $.15 a mile on the Triangle Parkway and eventually the nearly 20-mile Triangle Expressway just doesn't seem fair.

"The northern section has no tolls and this section has tolls," McDowell said.

Stephen DeWitt of the N.C. Turnpike Authority says most people understand that. "It's like a root canal. You don't like but you've got to have it."

Without a toll, turnpike officials say the proposed project would be a challenge to build. They already need the N.C. General Assembly to cover a yearly $20 million funding cap.

"To find that kind of money to build a new major expressway is tough so we really have no choice but to look for alternate ways to pay for roads," DeWitt said. "Whether you like it or not, it's one of those that's coming."

Money isn't the only gripe coming from concerned commuters.

Two popular short cuts to RTP -- Davis Drive and Alexander Drive off the Durham Freeway would be eliminated when the parkway opens in 2010. It's an inconvenience drivers say that comes at too high a price.

"It's just going to add to the cost of getting to work and back," driver Bill Hayden said.

The Turnpike Authority says if it doesn't get the money, it needs to cover its funding gap for the project. That could delay it by two years, adding an additional $100 million to the price tag.


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