I-Team: Some out-of-state drivers get a free ride on the Triangle Expressway

Some drivers are getting a free ride on the Triangle Expressway, and that's not sitting well with many drivers.
May 9, 2014 12:25:11 PM PDT
Some drivers are getting a free ride on the Triangle Expressway, and I wondered how that was possible?

I've been paying since the highway has been open along with thousands of other North Carolinians. So how do you get a free ride?

The camera captures your license plate or transponder and you'll be charged anywhere from 30 cents all the way up to more than $2 just for a one way trip. However, if you don't have a North Carolina license plate, you might not pay a dime to ride on the toll way.

"Oh, that would be wrong," said Kasia Hedley.

"You would think everyone who drives on it would have to pay," said Ron Ridenour.

However, that's not the case.

I only discovered not everyone got charged when I had out of state relatives visit. Both drove on the toll way several times, and never got billed. So I asked toll authorities why?

"There is a charge for looking up plate information from other states," said NC Quick Pass Customer Service Director Michelle Muir. "The cost of actually doing the lookup exceeded the average toll."

Muir says not charging some out of state drivers is a financial decision, but she adds, now that the toll road extends further, they're adding more states to the list of those they do charge. Right now, that list only includes 13 states outside of North Carolina.

"Right now, the average toll runs a $1.95," said Muir. "The lookup runs about $0.98. So there's a profit margin there for doing the look up on a variety of states."

The 13 states that North Carolina has struck deals with to look up drivers' license plates are: Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, New York, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, California, Washington, Missouri, and Delaware.

While Muir couldn't give me a dollar amount, she says the state is only losing money on about 2 percent of transactions.

Chris Long understands the state's reasoning.

"I don't think it's ideal. I think it's hard to run the plates," said Long. "It probably becomes more expensive for us as North Carolinians to make it work."

Other driver's aren't as happy about paying for something not all driver's pay for.

"People that don't live here get to drive it for free. That is super not fair no way," said Claudia Malazai.

"I don't think it's fair. I think they should fix that," said Hedley.

Muir tells me by June 1 they expect to add Georgia and Pennsylvania to that list of drivers charged. She said by the end of the year, they hope to have an agreement with all 50 states.Until then, some of us will pay, and some won't.


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