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A full listing of NC Toll Projects and where they stand

An article in Friday's New Bern Sun Journal breaks down the status of the various proposed toll projects in North Carolina.

1. Triangle Expressway (Triangle Parkway & Western Wake Parkway)

Two toll parts. Part one: The Triangle Parkway - a 3.4 mile extension of NC 147 south and east to current NC 540 at Davis Drive. It's expected cost $110 million - $235 million. This section is the shortest toll project and could be open by 2010.

Part two: Western Wake Parkway - a 12.6 mile extension of NC 540 from NC 55 to Holly Springs. Estimated cost - $515 million - $930 million and could be open by 2011.

A request to cover a $20 million gap in funding for both projects is currently under debate in the NC General Assembly.

2. Garden Parkway (Gaston East-West Connector)

21.5 miles from I-485 near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to I-85 west of US 321 in Gastonia. It is the longest and possibly most expensive of the toll projects. It will cost somewhere between $745 million and $1.6 billion.

The project would be built in stages. The first a 5.7 mile alignment from I-485 west over the Catawba River to NC 279 near Stowe Botanical Gardens south of Belmont. If funding is available, this could open by 2015. Tolls, which for the entire 21 mile section could run as high as $3, will not be enough to cover the costs to build the highway.

3. Monroe Connector & Bypass

Will run a close second to the Garden Parkway in length coming in at 21.1 miles. It will run from I-485 near Indian Trail to US 74 in Monroe. Costs between $352 million and $651 million. Portions of the highway could be open as soon as 2012.

4. Cape Fear Skyway

It will cost between $550 million and $1.2 billion to built the 9.5 highway and bridge over the Cape Fear River. It will connect US 17 in Brunswick County to US 421 south of downtown Wilmington. It has already been announced that tolls will cover about 55% of the costs to built the highway.

The Skyway could open as early as 2014. Supporters intend to ask for a 40 year annual allocation of $39 million from the state to finance the project.

A $1.75 toll for the entire 9.5 miles has been suggested for the Skyway.

5. Mid-Currituck Bridge

The seven mile highway and bridge would cost between $435 million and $928 million to build. The bridge would leave US 158 near Coinjock crossing the Currituck Sound to reach Corolla. Estimated opening is 2013.

6. I-74 in Brunswick County

What appears to be the least likely of toll projects to be built, the 18 mile project has preliminary costs of nearly $400 million.

Commentary:
So that's the state of the NCTA projects going into the upcoming NC budget debate and negotiations. What alarms me is the nearly ballpark numbers for the costs to build these projects.

Let's throw the politics out here, how could a legislator support and allocate funding to toll projects without a more specific funding number. For example, the costs of the Garden Parkway runs from $745 million to $1.6 billion. That's nearly a 1 billion (with a b) range of where the actual cost for the project could be. The same for the Cape Fear Skyway. Throw in questioning of the lower design standards and it sure looks like no one knows what we're in for.

Many of these highways are good projects. With the exception of the pointless I-74 proposal and not knowing enough on the impacts the Mid-Currituck Bridge would have on the Outer Banks, I support the idea of these projects being tolled.

However, with the inability to pinpoint the cost to build specific project and what appears to be incompetence at the NCTA. I can not support these projects as they are being managed and designed now. Maybe a 'NO' from the General Assembly will wake up the NCTA to get their act together and come to the legislature with much more solid numbers next year.

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