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Tolling Points

U.S. DOT Secretary Chao Spotlights Congestion Relief, Economic Value of New Tolled Lanes

By: 
Bill Cramer

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao closed out the year and the decade on a high note, with a mid-December statement that shone a light on two of the main benefits of new tolled capacity in North Carolina—their economic impact, and their potential to reduce traffic gridlock.

“This $501.5 million federal investment in transportation infrastructure in the Raleigh region will promote economic growth while enhancing mobility and reducing congestion for area residents and travelers,” Chao said December 18.

The loan under the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) will help finance the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA)’s Complete 540 Project, also known as the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension. It’s a major initiative that “extends the Triangle Expressway an additional 17.1 miles, increasing capacity by adding six new tolled lanes (three in each direction), several interchanges with intersecting roads, 55 bridges, 25 box culverts, and two stream crossings,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said.

The loan will be repaid primarily by toll revenue, DOT added.

Tri-Ex received a previous, $386.66-million TIFIA loan that enabled NCTA to open its initial six-lane, 18.8-mile limited access toll road in January 2013. In its coverage of the announcement, local FOX affiliate WRAL notes that construction on the 540 Project began after the state reached a settlement with local environmental groups concerned about the project’s potential impact.

“Under the settlement, the DOT will take steps to reduce emissions from construction vehicles working on the project, will limit runoff to protect nearby streams, restore wildlife habitat and help Wake County preserve more open space,” the station states.

Secretary Chao’s emphasis on tolled infrastructure as an economic driver amplifies one of the key arguments IBTTA has been putting forward through its Moving America Forward campaign. E-470 Public Highway Authority Executive Director Tim Stewart made the point loud and clear in November 2017, just as he was embarking on his year as IBTTA President.

“E-470 has produced a $38.4-billion increase in real estate value along the corridor since 1986, and the road accounts for 12% of the annual economic activity across the six-county Denver Metropolitan Statistical Area,” he told Tolling Points at the time. “That’s outstanding, but it’s not unusual. It’s just what tolling does for a local or regional economy.”

Make 2020 the year you shine as a local economic hero! Download IBTTA’s Grassroots Toll Kit to get started.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 11:15

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