Tag Archives: Toll Road

North Carolina Toll Roads

Toll Road

So, I like the idea of toll roads as a method to raise money for infrastructure spending.  I like it because it taxes use.  I like it because it can be used to control the supply and demand for our roads and bridges.  I like it because it’s energy source neutral.  And I like it because it can be targeted to certain throughways – think freeway not neighborhood boulevard.

So I like this:

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata says toll roads can’t be ruled out as an way to help pay for future transportation projects.

“You have to talk about tolling as an option across the state as we look at how we’re going to generate funds for future projects,” Tata told area business leaders Thursday morning at an annual breakfast meeting of the Regional Transportation Alliance.

However, even republicans are not immune to an ever growing government:

Tata said the transportation department faces significant funding challenges as the state gas tax, a major source of funding, is bringing in less revenue each year.

Although more people are driving in North Carolina, they are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars. Drivers living near state borders also cross state lines to avoid paying North Carolina’s gas tax, one of the highest in the Southeast.

I support toll roads in lieu of gasoline taxes, not in addition to.

And let’s not forget that just because the idea of toll roads is a good one that government can’t mess it up:

Raleigh, N.C. — State lawmakers are pushing for changes to the state’s relatively new Triangle Expressway toll road after numerous complaints from drivers about unexpected bills, big late fees and poor customer service.

Andy Lelewski, the state’s director of toll road operations, acknowledges that changes to the Quick Pass system are needed and says he will work with the legislature to make some adjustments.

5 On Your Side first reported about toll road billing problems in August. Since then, we’ve investigated more than 18 complaints from drivers – all but three of whom got on the toll road by mistake.

A wrong veer, and you’re on it. Delay paying the bill when it arrives in the mail, and you’re in for major late fees.

“It’s robbery,” said Heidi Matesevac. “To me, it’s robbery.”

Matesevac’s original toll bill was just 77 cents. The amount was so small, she said, she wasn’t sure how to handle paying it.

“It will cost me more to write the check and send it through the mail than to pay the toll,” she said.

To make it more frustrating, when Matesevac called to pay the bill over the phone, a Quick Pass customer service representative told her that only her husband could make a payment because their system only lists the first name on the title. Matesevac even sent proof that her name was also listed on the title, but Quick Pass wouldn’t budge.

“I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” she said. “I said, ‘Really? You’re not going to talk to me about a 77 cent bill at a toll that my vehicle – that I own – is being billed for?”

After Quick Pass added a $6 processing fee, Matesevac sent a check for $6.77. In the meantime, she was slapped with a $25 civil penalty and more processing fees.

“It’s at $55 now,” she said. “They’re just billing service charges on service charges. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

That’s insane.  People howl when payday lenders charge crazy rates, but this?  This is extortion.

However, people love the toll roads:

Raleigh, N.C. — Despite continued complaints from drivers about unexpected bills, big late fees and poor customer service, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said Thursday that the Triangle Expressway continues to see a steady increase in traffic.

Over a little more than three months, the number of toll transactions processed daily by the Turnpike Authority nearly doubled, from 960,000 in December to 1,780,000 in March. The expressway covers 18 miles in Western Wake County, from Morrisville to Holly Springs.

Vehicle traffic on the toll road was also up sharply in the first quarter of 2013, climbing from 19,800 drivers on a typical weekday in December 2012 to 24,900 vehicles in March.

As toll traffic increases, we can increase the toll until The Laffer Curve puts traffic levels where they are most efficient.

I love toll roads.

Put Bicycle Riders In Their Place

I live outside of the city of Raleigh.  The roads of Wake County are two things:

  1. Beautiful
  2. Narrow

Really, driving through the county on those little county roads is a good way to spend a couple hours.  When the kids were very young I’d get them to nap by driving through the roads near my home.  However, those roads offer little to nothing in the way of a shoulder.  Even the picture above has very little shoulder support, and the roads near my house offer even less.

Which is why I advocate that bikes should not be on these roads.  Fifty or seventy years ago these roads were lazy country affairs.  Today, with the population growth, these roads are legit thoroughfares that move 1000’s of people to and from work every day.  Complete with the hustle and bustle of such.  Drivers are hitting speeds of 50-60 MPH and that just doesn’t work when you have a cyclist, or 5, moving at 20 with no way to get out of the way.

While I don’t think that bikes have a place on these roads, I DO like this idea:

Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back. And city officials want even more people to commute, and over longer distances.

So a network of 26 new bike routes, dubbed “the cycling superhighway,” is being built to link the surrounding suburbs to Copenhagen.

Lars Gaardhoj, an official with the Copenhagen capital region, says the routes will be straight and direct.

“It will be very fast for people who use their bike,” he says. “This is new because traditionally cycle paths have been placed where there is space for them and the cars didn’t run. So now the bike is going to challenge the car.”

The first highway, to the busy suburb of Albertslund some 10 miles outside the city, was completed in April.

Each mile of bike highway will cost about $1 million. The project is to be financed by the city of Copenhagen and 21 local governments. And in a country where both right- and left-leaning politicians regularly ride bikes to work, it has bilateral support.

Even as I object to cyclists on our roads I preach that we should build a “bike-way” through the county.  Start with a small map and add 5 feet to one side or the other of our roads; a place where only bikes can go.  But creating a highway might even be better.

Certainly government has a role in transportation.  And we can pay for it by implementing a use tax.  You can tax bicycles, something I had to pay every year growing up in Minnesota, or pay a toll as you ride the highway.

Ride on!

North Carolina Toll Road: Winning

Earlier this year North Carolina introduced it’s first toll road; a small little connection between147 and 540.  The first segment planned in the loop.  I’ve been in favor of toll roads because I enjoy two aspects:

  1. I like the payment of thing to be given to the user of a thing.
  2. I like that we can impact traffic flow by raising rates during peaks times.

Taxing the use of a road is a much more efficient way of paying for the road than taxing a kid who mows lawns by taxing gasoline.

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North Carolina’s First Toll Road Opens Today

Today marks the opening of North Carolina’s first toll road:

Morrisville, N.C. — Tolls are now being collected on one of the Triangle’s newest roadways. The 3.5-mile Triangle Parkway opened Dec. 8, connecting Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 147 in Durham County to N.C. Highway 540 in Wake County.

Tolls will be collected electronically on the highway, which is the first segment of the 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway that will eventually stretch from I-40 to N.C. Highway 55 in Holly Springs.

I am an optimist, so my excitement on this development makes a critical assumption; that other taxes used to fund our roads are diminished or retired as we begin to rely more and more on tolls.

The road, which will be expanded in segments, has a cost of nearly $1 billion.  If we only toll the current segment, that 3.5 long portion, we should come up with some cash to pay down the bill:

Use of the Triangle Parkway since its opening has also topped expectations, with 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles per day, officials said.

Tolls are 30 to 50 cents for cars with a QuickPass and 45 to 70 cents for those without.

Assuming everyone uses a QuickPass, the daily take for the system is $8,400 using the low side of vehicles and toll rate.  More if we use 10,000 vehicles and 50 cent average tolls.

As toll roads increase, we will have the ability to offset gasoline taxes AND increase the flow of traffic on our highways.

North Carolina Toll Roads

I’ve seen people drive all over creation to find a gas station that sells gas for $0.02 cheaper than they can get at their local fill-up.  In fact, they’ll spend 15 minutes to obtain cheaper petrol.  I see the same thing with folks wanting to buy a CD, or a book or a video game.

People react to price variance, often outrageously so.

Further, I acknowledge that we need to pay for roads.  Society needs to be burdened to cover the cost of building and maintaining this infrastructure.  Currently we use gas taxes to cover this.  However, with the advent of more fuel efficient cars, and all electric cars as well, that tax may no longer be appropriate.  It is continuing to fall short of requirements, though I suspect this is in large part due to the fact that gas taxes fund other things besides roads and bridges, and so another method is required.

I think that method is tolls.

We have long ago mastered the technology that allows us to gather and collect tolls without having to stop at toll booths thereby slowing traffic.  We can do this automatically and accurately.  Now the only thing preventing us is fear of change.

By tolling a rod we are able to directly collect funds from the vehicles using those roads.  AND we can tax some vehicles more than others.  For example, an 18-wheeler is going to impact our highways much more than a Prius.  We can tax the truck more.  And, from a capacity perspective, we are able to tax our roads in order to increase capacity.

As I mentioned above, people will go to great lengths to avoid even a small increase in price.  It is my expectation that as we increase the cost of driving on a road during peak times, fewer people will drive during those times.  This will spread traffic out  more evenly and allow for much more traffic on our roads than we currently experience.

And I’m glad North Carolina is going to experiment with this use:

Raleigh, N.C. — Growing congestion on Interstate 540 could require an expansion of the state’s first toll road, part of which is set to open to traffic next month, a regional transportation planner said Wednesday.

The Triangle Expressway is an 18-mile stretch of road that includes the western part of 540. Tolling is scheduled to begin in January on a 3.4-mile stretch that runs through Research Triangle Park

The rest of 540 is currently free, but planner Chris Lukasina said that could change in the future.

The long-term plan for the road, slated for completion around 2035, includes widening it from six lanes to eight, Lukasina said. Two of those lanes could become toll lanes, with varying costs throughout the day depending on traffic.

“At different times of day, or as congestion picks up or slows down, they can change the toll on that particular lane,” Lukasina said.

In other words, drivers will be able to pay their way into a faster lane.

I’ll be fascinated to see how this works.



North Carolina’s Toll Road

I’ve long been an opponent of toll based funding of our public roads, highways and bridges.  However, as I’ve been enjoying my Libertarian blossoming, I have come to embrace the idea.  And mainly for two reasons:

  1. The closer we can get to real use based funding, the better our roads will be funded.  Those that use the road more will end up paying for that road.  Big corporation drives trucks over our publicly funded freeways?  Charge those trucks for that privilege.  Don’t drive those roads but DO purchase the goods and services of those corporations?  Pay that toll through pass through costs.
  2. Tolls can easily be adjusted using technology to influence traffic patterns.  Traffic begins to choke things up at 08:00?  Reduce the toll for drivers up until 08:00.  And then increase it slightly through the rush hour until the demand goes back down.  Over time, traffic will normalize.

And so North Carolina begins its foray into toll based funding:

MORRISVILLE, N.C. — North Carolina’s first toll road is almost ready for drivers…


When Phase I of the toll road – a stretch of 3.4 miles between Interstate 40 at N.C. Highway 147 in Durham County south to Interstate 540 in Wake County – opens in December, it and the existing portion of N.C. Highway 540 between N.C. Highways 54 and 55 will be the Tar Heel state’s first toll road.

Drivers will have one month’s grace, and tolls will begin in January 2012.

I’m excited to see how the toll goes.  I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to recover enough money to fund these “infrastructure jobs” that the Obama administration continues to talk about.  The direct tax from tolls should be able to be easily tracked to highway funding.  This should be a no brainer.

However, I also fear that the money we normally collect for our roads will simply be diverted to other uses and that, in net, our roads will continue to be underfunded.