Drivers looking for ways to bypass toll road

September 8, 2011 8:03:47 PM PDT
The ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team has discovered the Triangle Parkway is among the most expensive toll roads per mile, in the country.

The NC Department of Transportation tells ABC11 the cost is based on what drivers said they could pay and what it will take to repay the bond. However, many drivers say the toll is too high and they'll be looking for other ways to get where they are going.

The three-and-a-half mile stretch connecting 540 to I-40 will cost drivers up to 77 cents one way.

"I don't like to pay tolls," driver Larry Perry said. "I gotta have an extra 60 or 80 cents just to make it to work."

Perry says that's 60 or 80 cents he doesn't have, so wherever the toll road is he won't be. "Because I know I can't afford it."

DOT Chief Engineer Steve Dewitt says the DOT planned on that when it came up with the rate, which was largely based on a "willingness to pay survey."

"So we used the public's judgment in essence," he added. "What's my time worth to travel down a road, what's the value of what I'm going to have to pay in order to have that transportation improvement?"

But when it comes to per mile value, the Triangle Parkway offers less than every state the I-Team researched.

Drive the full length of the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey and you will pay four cents a mile. The Florida Turnpike is seven cents a mile, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike is nine cents per mile.

Drive the length of the new Triangle Parkway extension and you're going to pay 22 cents a mile.

You can reduce that by 14 cents if you buy a transponder from the state for $5, but that's still five cents more than Pennsylvania, which was the next most expensive state the I-Team found.

Still, some say the convenience will be worth it.

"The reality is, I don't mind paying for an easy access road," driver Nicole Meserth said.

Others agree.

"I don't think it's a big deal," driver Christina Davis said. "You drive up north, it's just toll road after toll road after toll road. It's just something that North Carolinians will have to get used to."

But for Perry, it's a big deal. He says it would just take too big of a toll.

"If you don't have it, you don't have it," he said. "As the old saying goes, you can't get blood from a turnip. That's just the bottom line."

One unusual thing about the Triangle Parkway is there are no toll booths.

Overpasses will either scan your $5 transponder and bill a credit card or take a picture of your license plate and send you a bill in the mail.

The road opens in December and tolls begin in January.

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