As a young child growing up near the Pennsylvania Turnpike (the nation’s first “modern” turnpike), I was convinced that my parents were paying “the troll” to enter its broad swath of concrete. I would duck onto the car’s floorboard in order to avoid laying eyes on the hideous, man-eating (but very short in stature) beast. I also didn’t want the troll to spot me, believing myself to be very tasty.
At some point in my young life (hopefully before I earned my driver’s license), I learned that it was a “toll” that was being paid. As a nascent driver, I would take the ticket at the toll booth with awe and trepidation. I was entering the promised land called a “turnpike,” and always fearful that my admission ticket would blow out the window and I’d have to pay the full freight for the entire length of its route. A turnpike still holds a special place in my inner psyche.
Now, North Carolina has just opened its first turnpike. The “Triangle Parkway” is the first phase of a planned 18.8 mile “Triangle Expressway,” and its creation and management falls under the jurisdiction of the NC Turnpike Authority. By the end of 2012, the tolled expressway will stretch from I-40 and the Durham Freeway to Holly Springs in Wake County. With its opening, North Carolina joins 35 other states with toll roads.
While North Carolina seems late to the “pay the toll” party, we’re among the first in North America with an innovative way to pay that toll. The “Triangle Expressway” will be a cashless, totally-electronic operation. No scary troll to pay. Instead, a camera snaps a picture of your license plate and you’ll receive a bill in the mail. Alternatively, regular users of the toll road may prefer a bit of electronic wicky-wacky called a transponder. Drivers can purchase a transponder through the NC Quick Pass program and have their pre-paid account debited whenever they use the road.
The NC Turnpike Authority is already working on more toll roads. Construction of the Monroe Connector/Bypass outside Charlotte will begin early next year, with more projects proposed.
By the way, mark your calendar for January 2044. That’s when the “Triangle Expressway” is expected to be paid for and made toll-free. (Wanna place a bet?)
By Tom Gongaware (General Sales Manager, Triangle Region)