540 / Triangle Expressway
On July 29, 2009 the Turnpike Authority completed a finance package exceeding $1 billion, allowing for the award of construction contracts to complete 540/Triangle Expressway. More than five years of Alliance and partner efforts have come to fruition as the largest highway project in State history was awarded to extend the 540/Raleigh Outer Loop to the south and to extend the Durham Freeway south to meet 540. The entire 16 new miles of turnpike freeway opened in stages in 2011 and 2012.
The Triangle Expressway -- which consists of the 147/Triangle Parkway turnpike within Research Triangle Park and the 540/Western Wake Freeway from Cary at NC 55 to the Holly Springs/Apex area at the NC 55 bypass (map) -- is already an essential part of our future transportation backbone. The Triangle Expressway turnpike provides travelers with a mobility option that they may not have otherwise seen for decades, if ever, and will help preserve our area's economic vitality and quality of life.
We applaud the efforts of the Turnpike Authority, NCDOT, our area MPOs, local elected officials, our member chambers of commerce, state legislators, the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, the Federal Highway Administration and all of the partners that worked to make a "faster 540" a reality. The Alliance and our member chambers of commerce have worked to accelerate the completion of this corridor for several years. Our efforts began in spring 2004 with the passing of a series of resolutions to accelerate the Triangle Parkway as a new turnpike in Research Triangle Park.
540 / Triangle Expressway – summary
540 / Western Wake and Triangle Parkway, which together form the proposed Triangle Expressway turnpike, are needed freeway projects for our growing Triangle—the economic engine for much of central and eastern North Carolina.
Completing this road -- and the nearby Triangle Connector to I-85 -- will complete the Research Triangle north-south freeway corridor from the US 1 freeway near Apex (and points south) to Interstate 85 at Durham - (map).
The Turnpike Authority reports that this $1.2 billion turnpike freeway will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs, reduce travel times for those who use the new road, and free up other local area roadways from commuting travelers.
The NC Legislature provided gap funding in summer 2008 and the initial federal TIFIA loan process was completed by fall 2008. Unfortunately, the NC Turnpike Authority was not been able to sell the project bonds at that time.
To move the turnpike forward, the Authority chose to split the proposed bond offering into an Appropriation Bond (backed by gap funding) and a Revenue Bond (backed by toll revenues); the latter will utilize bond insurance to secure a higher rating.
Senate Bill 750 signed in June 2009 will ensure that gap funding remains on the project and will authorize the Authority to extend the life of the bonds under a refinancing should it become necessary.
The Federal TIFIA loan process was finalized in July 2009 and the toll revenue bonds were sold on July 13 and 14, 2009.
The Turnpike Authority completed its finance package and awarded contracts on July 29, 2009 -- allowing 540/Triangle Expressway to advance to construction and marking the largest highway contract award in the history of North Carolina.
540 / Triangle Expressway – added background
540/Triangle Expressway provides nonstop travel for cars, vanpools, buses, and trucks from the Holly Springs Bypass in southwestern Wake County all the way to I-40 at the NC 147/Durham Freeway interchange in the heart of RTP in Durham County.
The three mile long Triangle Parkway alone—from I-40 to NC 540 in southern Durham and western Wake counties—is expected to reduce future traffic on I-40 by more than 40,000 vehicles every day.
The Research Triangle Foundation has been planning for the Triangle Parkway for more than half a century and has reserved the bulk of the needed right-of-way inside Research Triangle Park.
Other states facing similar circumstances have used toll roads as way to meet demand for new construction in high traffic regions. Austin had zero miles of toll roads open to traffic as recently as summer 2006. Since that time, more than 70 miles of turnpike freeways have opened to travelers.
Other regions in North Carolina are also pursuing turnpikes in order to receive the benefits of faster construction and accelerated congestion relief, so this situation is not unique to the Triangle.
540 / Triangle Expressway – partial timeline
Triangle Expressway expected to become compatible with SunPass and all Florida toll roads
Triangle Expressway becomes compatible with EZ-PASS and most toll roads in the mid-Atlantic, northeast, and midwest.
All sections of the Triangle Expressway open to traffic, with 540 extended from US 64 to NC 55 bypass.
First section of 540 toll road opens from NC 55/NC 540 in northwest Cary to US 64 near Apex.
NC 147 extension opens from I-40/NC 147 to NC 540 in Research Triangle Park.
Turnpike Authority breaks ground on 540 / Triangle Expressway turnpike between I-40 at NC 147/Durham Freeway and NC 55/Holly Springs bypass -- the largest highway project in state history.
July 29, 2009
NC Turnpike Authority completes $1.01 billion financing package and awards projects to begin construction of 540/Triangle Expressway.
July 13-14, 2009
NC Turnpike Authority sells $620m+ revenue bonds for 540/Triangle Expressway.
Federal Government approves $380m+ TIFIA loan for the Triangle Expressway.
Senate Bill 750 signed into law that ensures that gap funding remains on the project and will authorize the Authority to extend the life of the bonds under a refinancing should it become necessary.
July 16, 2008
Governor signs 2008 state budget, providing $25 million annually for Gap Funding for Triangle Expressway and future funds for other turnpike routes statewide.
May 13, 2008
21st Century Transportation Committee recommends Gap funding for Triangle Expressway and other turnpike routes
April 24, 2008
21st Century Transportation Committee releases short session recommendations that include a provision for turnpike gap funding
21st Century Transportation Committee formed to look at a variety of mobility issues
Turnpike Authority approves Triangle Expressway as a fully electronic toll road
House and Senate pass different versions of gap funding bill (S1352) by wide margins; legislature adjourns before conference committee can be appointed
H1937 gap funding bill introduced, sponsored by all Wake representatives
CAMPO and DCHC MPO approve 540 and Triangle Parkway as turnpike route
S1054 gap funding bill introduced, sponsored by all Wake senators
Turnpike Authority passes revenue retention policy specifying that tolls must stay on individual turnpike corridors where revenues were raised
S1381 signed which allowed the portion of 540 between NC 55 and NC 54 to be converted to future turnpike status while under construction in order to help accelerate the completion of the Triangle Expressway and reduce future toll rates. That legislation also specified that toll revenues must be used for that corridor.
Regional Transportation Alliance releases "Getting there Faster" (full report, executive summary), outlining the need for accelerating 540 and Triangle Parkway and providing background on the turnpike option.
Preliminary findings on Triangle Parkway presented
Turnpike Authority accepts resolution signed by southwestern Wake mayors and RTA chair requesting study of tolls to accelerate 540/Western Wake
State appropriations act (H1414) designates entire Raleigh Outer Loop encircling the city of Raleigh as eligible for the state Highway Trust Fund.
Public hearing on Triangle Parkway with campaign organized by Regional Transportation Alliance
Capital Area MPO passes resolution requesting study of tolls for Triangle Parkway
Area communities, chambers of commerce and Regional Transportation Alliance pass resolutions supporting study of tolls to accelerate Triangle Parkway (NC 147 extension)
Turnpike Authority created by General Assembly.